While rumors of a surprise Bruce Springsteen appearance didn’t pan out, the Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear did produce several musical highlights. (Indeed, with opening act The Roots shifting to backing up surprise guests ranging from the singer formerly known as Cat Stevens to Kid Rock, there was more music than comedy in the three-hour event.) Here’s our list of the five most memorable moments.
1. John Legend gets political. Before performing Bill Withers classic anti-war song “I Can’t Write Left Handed” with The Roots, Legend made sure its message wasn’t lost on the crowd (which estimates put at 150,000). “This song was written back in 1973 by Bill Withers when America was in the midst of the Vietnam War,” he said. “We’re still at war, while politicians in Washington make all the decisions and our young men and women go and fight.”
2. Yusuf Islam plays along. In the funniest musical moment of the rally, Yusuf Islam performed the first verse of his 1971 hit “Peace Train” before being interrupted (with an assist from Colbert) by Ozzy Osbourne and his own locomotive-themed track, “Crazy Train.” After Colbert and Stewart argued over which is the better kind of train to be on (“Someone pull the emergency break on that rainbow moonbeam choo-choo,” said Colbert at one point) Osbourne and Islam played their songs at the exact same time – then were joined onstage by the O’Jays for a performance of “Love Train” — resulting in an insane mash-up that’s certain to be one of the most YouTubed moments of the rally.
3. Kid Rock provides an original. Playing keyboard, Rock performed a brand new ballad for the crowd. “Kind of ironic, I’m the one who is going to sing the serious song today,” he said before bringing out Sheryl Crow — and, via video, a prison-bound TI — to join him. “I can’t stop the war, shelter homeless, feed the poor,” Rock sang in an uncharacteristically sincere tone. “The most I can do is care.”
4. Mavis Staples and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy provide a moment of Zen. At roughly the halfway mark, the duo did a beautiful acoustic version of the title track to their new collaborative album “You Are Not Alone.” Later Tweedy returned to the stage to play guitar while Colbert and Stewart sang a very funny song about America called “The Greatest Country In The World.”
5. Everybody goes to a happy place. After his heart-felt speech about the ill-effects of hyperventilating media coverage, Stewart invited Tony Bennett to the stage for a super-brief but sweet rendition of “America the Beautiful.” Bennett was then joined by all of the rally’s performers for a spirited take on “I’ll Take You There” by the Staples Singers, with Mavis Staples taking the lead.