BOSTON – The song “Come Together” their rallying cry, performers at a benefit concert for victims of the deadly Boston Marathon bombing had thousands of people cheering Thursday for a city that has pulled together to overcome adversity.
Veteran rockers Aerosmith helped close the 5 1/2 hour Boston Strong Concert. After an energetic run through hits, such as “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion,” they were joined on stage by 1990s boy band New Kids on the Block and other performers for the Beatles classic.
The Boston Strong Concert had residents jamming to songs from the Dropkick Murphys, Boston and other musical acts and even laughing at a joke about the capture of a bombing suspect.
The concert kicked off with the rock band Boston playing songs including its 1970s hit “More Than a Feeling.”
“Tonight, we are all Boston,” lead singer Tommy DeCarlo declared to a crowd of thousands of people, including victims and first responders, at the TD Garden.
“Boston got its heart broken … but if they think they can keep us down, they can ‘Dream On,’ said frontman Steven Tyler before Aerosmith played their hit by that name.
The Dropkick Murphys, whose rousing rendition of “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” was a crowd favourite, were introduced by former New England Patriots player Joe Andruzzi, who was watching the April 15 marathon when the bombs went off and helped victims at the scene.
“When I looked around that day, the image that’s in my mind is seeing more people run to the site than run away,” Andruzzi said. “That is truly Boston Strong.”
Concertgoer Harry Donovan said Boston residents weren’t going to let “any violence, any hatred bring this town down.”
“This city took a hit, there’s no doubt, but Boston, like a lot of other cities, is resilient,” said Donovan, of nearby Wellesley.
Bombing victim Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs in one of the blasts and was led from the scene in a wheelchair, also attended and smiled on a massive television screen.
As the members of NKOTB took the stage to perform, member Joey McIntyre, who had finished running in the marathon 10 minutes before the bombs went off, choked up.
“I happened to be on a bench in Copley Plaza, Copley Square,” McIntyre said, “but I don’t care where you were that day, because this happened to all of us.”
Surprise guests Boyz II Men joined NKOTB on stage for “One Sweet Day” in tribute to those who lost their lives in the attack.
Other acts taking part in the benefit show included country singer Jason Aldean and comedian Steven Wright. James Taylor performed “Sweet Baby James” with Carole King on piano.
More than once, the words “Boston Strong” were met with cheers and fist pumps from the energetic crowd.
“I love that phrase,” enthused Boston comic Lenny Clarke, whose cathartic set featured a foul-mouthed, one-man reenactment of the capture of bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. “You know what I don’t love? ‘Shelter in place.'”
Boston area residents were locked down, told to shelter in place, a few days after the bombing while authorities searched for Tsarnaev, who was found hiding in a boat in a backyard in suburban Watertown. Tsarnaev’s older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, had died after a shootout with police.
The suspects, ethnic Chechens from Russia, are accused of setting off two pressure cooker bombs packed with shrapnel near the marathon’s finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others. Their mother has insisted they are innocent.
Concert proceeds will go to One Fund Boston, the compensation fund established by Gov. Deval Patrick and Mayor Thomas Menino to help bombing victims.
The amount of money raised by the concert won’t be available until next week, a spokesman for the event’s producer said. Ticket prices for the sold-out show ranged from $35 to close to $300.
It was a night of joy, tears, laughter and standing ovations, but co-organizer and NKOTB member Donnie Wahlberg said the artists on stage were not the true stars.
“You deserve the credit,” the Dorchester native told the crowd. “I think we’ve shown the world in the last few months what many in Boston have already known, that we are not just one of the greatest cities in the world, we are one of the greatest families in the world.”