Love Rocks NYC 2021 Features Grace Potter, Warren Haynes, Sara Bareilles & More: Setlist, Review, Photos & Video
Live music with an actual audience, albeit at limited capacity, returned to The Beacon Theatre on Thursday night as the fifth annual Love Rocks NYC benefit concert was held in New York City. Grace Potter, Warren Haynes, Sara Bareilles,Gary Clark Jr., Yola and Jon Bon Jovi were among the performers at the all-star fundraiser for God’s Love We Deliver, an organization which delivers nutritious meals to homebound residents in the Big Apple.
At the heart of the event is a powerhouse house band featuring renowned musicians, a full horn section and six stellar backing vocalists, all under the leadership of musical director Will Lee. The longtime Letterman bassist was joined last night and for each past Love Rocks NYC concerts by a core band consisting of drummers Shawn Pelton and Steve Gadd, guitarists Eric Krasno and Larry Campbell and keyboardists Jeff Young and Ricky Peterson. Each member of the house band — as well as the God’s Love Horns (Evan Barker, Ron Blake, Joe Fielder, Aaron Heick, Jim Hynes and Andy Snitzer) and We Deliver Singers (Elaine Caswell, Dennis Collins, Neal Coomer, Chrissi Poland, Nicki Richards and Mark Rivers) — boasts a jaw-dropping resume. All of the artists are so talented, you’d want to spend the night keyed in on watching them for a master class in music.
Most of the featured performers led the house band through a number or two with plenty of beloved songs thrown in from rock, funk and soul history as well as original material. The incredibly tight house band spent eight days perfecting the arrangements and the love shined through all night long.
The evening started with congas set up mid-stage, seemingly for Love Rocks NYC regular Pedrito Martinez. However, once the lights came up and the musician raised his head, it became clear the man on percussion was none other than Bill Murray. The famed comedian is another Love Rocks NYC regular, though he’s never actually billed. Other hosts who introduced acts, told jokes and urged those in the theater and watching the livestream at home to donate to God’s Love We Deliver were Jeff Garlin, Tina Fey, Michael Imperioli and Bernie Williams.
Grace Potter brought the house down every time she took the stage, beginning with the “American Girl” opener. Hearing the likes of Will Lee, Steve Gadd and Eric Krasno play the iconic parts from the Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers classic was incredible. Potter belted out the tune and then hopped over to keyboard world to take an organ solo.
Next up were Love Rocks NYC staples keyboardist Ivan Neville and guitarist Jimmy Vivino. The pair got the 30%-capacity audience grooving hard to the Allen Toussaint-penned “Yes We Can Can.” Yola followed and the Brit wowed with her own “Hold On” and “Stand For Myself.” The latter was the debut live performance of the title track from Yola’s forthcoming Dan Auerbach-produced album.
Aryon Jones then showed off powerful pipes and ripping guitar on “Supercharged” before Emily King led the house band on a soul-laden and inventive take on the Beatles’ “Help.” From there, Billy F Gibbons emerged for a smoldering “Cheap Sunglasses” featuring a harmonica solo from Danny Clinch. Gibbons stuck around with ace pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph and beloved New York Yankee alumni, guitarist Bernie Williams for a roof-raising “Foxy Lady.”
Surprisingly, Jon Bon Jovi came out next, still pretty early in the show, to perform the emotional 2020 Bon Jovi single “American Reckoning.” Hardly a butt was in a seat when JBJ went on to team with Grace Potter for a riveting “You Give Love A Bad Name.” Warren Haynes, perhaps the artist who has performed at The Beacon more than any other, came out next and completed a one-two punch that might have been the highlight of the night by leading the house band, Robert Randolph and Bernie Williams on The Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See.” Haynes was given a rare for Love Rocks NYC solo spotlight for his original “Old Friend” before crushing “Delta Lady” with help from Grace Potter and Pedrito Martinez.
Another highlight in a night filled with them came when Tash Neal and Jimmy Vivino fronted the house band on Neil Young’s “Down By The River.” Neal and Vivino pushed each other to great heights both vocally and instrumentally. Tina Fey then came out to give a disappointingly short intro of Sara Bareilles. Sara made remarks similar to many of those on hand last night in telling the crowd how both excited and nervous she was to perform in front of people for the first time in a long time.
Bareilles didn’t let the nerves get to her and didn’t “fuck it up” as she delivered a strong version of “Brave,” one of her most popular songs. Sara then welcomed pal Emily King for “If I Can’t Have You,” a song the pair co-wrote with Aaron Sterling for Bareilles 2019 album, Amidst The Chaos.
Sara ended her portion of the night by dueting with Yola on a goosebump-inducing version of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” Thankfully, music isn’t a competition as it would be impossible to determine who did a better job singing the Elton John classic. Both performers emptied the tank to the delight of the audience.
Grammy-winning artist Fantastic Negrito emerged next for a compelling cover of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” featuring Bernie Williams and Pedrito Martinez. The man born Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz reached the top of his vocal register to bring the song to a climax before performing his own “How Long?”
Nathaniel Rateliff took the stage over 150 minutes into the four-hour concert and uncorked the beautiful “Time Stands” from his 2020 solo album, It’s Still Alright. “Let’s pick it up a little bit, everybody,” Rateliff exclaimed as the band kicked into Van Morrison’s “Caravan.” Not only did Nathaniel did a great job with the vocals, but “Caravan” marked one of the few times Krasno and Campbell took somewhat extended solos.
Bill Murray returned and called Rateliff, “the greatest living Irish-American.” Murray admitted he was just there to “fill time” but had the crowd appreciating how special the evening was. The comedian/actor then introduced Gary Clark Jr. The Austin-based guitarist turned in exceptional versions of his own “When I’m Gone” and “Feed The Babies” that helped display why Murray said Clark Jr.’s playing “destroyed me” at the first Love Rocks NYC benefit.
Love Rocks NYC’s penultimate featured performer was Ledisi, who fronted the house band on “Knockin’,” a song she wrote with Eric Krasno, and a wild “Them Changes” that incorporated elements of “Disco Inferno.” Blues great Joe Bonamassa had the honor of being the final featured performer at last night’s concert. Bonamassa treated fans to a thumping “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home.” The guitarist/vocalist then was joined by Warren Haynes, Robert Randolph and Jimmy Vivino for an otherworldly cover of Freddie King’s “Going Down.”
The action-packed concert wasn’t over yet. Nearly all of the evening’s performers packed the stage with Love Rocks NYC’s producers and God’s Love We Deliver’s Karen Pearl to say farewell with the best “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” this side of the 2004 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony. Haynes, Ledisi, Rateliff, Potter, Yola and Clark passed the baton vocally while Gibbons, Vivino, Gary, Warren, Bonamassa and Randolph each took solos.
A word of appreciation to the production crew who kept the music flowing despite the logistical nightmare that comes with such a huge lineup. Love Rocks NYC once again showed why it’s a can’t-miss event, especially due to the important cause the benefit concert supports. Unbelievably, God’s Love We Deliver didn’t miss a single day of deliveries as the pandemic raged. The show will return to The Beacon on March 10, 2022.
Set: Bill Murray/Pedrito Martinez Skit, American Girl (Grace Potter), — Jeff Garlin —, Yes We Can Can (Ivan Neville, Jimmy Vivino), Hold On (Yola), Stand For Myself (Yola), Supercharged (Ayron Jones), Help (Emily King), — Michael Imperioli —, Cheap Sunglasses (Billy F Gibbons, Danny Clinch), Foxy Lady (Billy F Gibbons, Robert Randolph, Bernie Williams),— Bill Murray —, American Reckoning (Jon Bon Jovi), You Give Love A Bad Name (Jon Bon Jovi, Grace Potter), Can’t You See (Warren Haynes, Robert Randolph, Bernie Williams), Old Friend (Warren Haynes solo), Delta Lady (Warren Haynes, Grace Potter, Pedrito Martinez), Down By The River (Tash Neal, Jimmy Vivino), — Tina Fey —, Brave (Sara Bareilles), If I Can’t Have You (Sara Bareilles & Emily King), Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Sara Bareilles & Yola), Ain’t No Sunshine (Fantastic Negrito, Bernie Williams, Pedrito Martinez), How Long? (Fantastic Negrito), Time Stands (Nathaniel Rateliff), Caravan (Nathaniel Rateliff),— Bill Murray —, When I’m Gone (Gary Clark Jr.), Feed The Babies (Gary Clark Jr.), Knockin’ (Ledisi), Them Changes (Ledisi), — Jeff Garlin —, Breaking Up Somebody’s Home (Joe Bonamassa), I’m Goin Down (Joe Bonamassa, Warren Haynes, Jimmy Vivino, Robert Randolph), While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Finale)