In front of a crowd hundreds of thousands strong, Bruce Springsteen, Rihanna, Eminem, Jennifer Hudson and others performed as part of the first ever Concert for Valor to celebrate Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11.
The show, which was sponsored by HBO, Starbucks and Chase, used the celebrity guests and short films to bring greater awareness to the hardships that soldiers face as they readjust to civilian life and the sacrifices that military families make. With a variety of acts to appeal to everyone, the concert was a chance for celebrities, civilians and servicemen and women to come together.
Starting off a surprisingly warm November night was Jennifer Hudson, who delivered a powerful rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” as well as a somber yet equally powerful duet of “Bulletproof” with Jessie J.
Jessie J then performed her own set. While her songs were a fun start to the concert, they didn’t have the same feeling patriotism that much of the rest of the night did. It was clear as the show carried on that the most successful acts were those that brought such patriotism through in their sets.
The Zac Brown Band and Carrie Underwood were both able to do just that. Audiences sang along to the Zac Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried” and listened as Underwood sang “See You Again” as images of military families coming home and leaving for war played behind her.
The patriotism continued between sets, as short films telling different stories of military members played. Many of those featured were also in attendance at the concert, offering a wave and an overwhelmed smile at the end of their short.
The concert continued with a mediocre set from The Black Keys, Metallica came out screaming with its song “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” While clearly a split from the patriotic theme of the night, the audience banged their heads right along with them for a three song set.
The biggest disappointment of the show surprisingly came from Bruce Springsteen. While the Boss delivered a clear anti-war, support the troops message behind his acoustic version of “Born in the U.S.A.,” the song came off as sad rather than spirited. Springsteen finished his set with one of his classics, “Dancing in the Dark,” but the normally upbeat song sounded hollow as Springsteen played it alone onstage.
One of the final acts of the night was Rihanna, who started her set with a mediocre version of “Diamonds.” However, the energy picked up when Eminem joined her for “Monster.” Eminem then launched into his own set including “Guts Over Fear,” “Not Afraid” and “Lose Yourself.”
Despite controversy over the amount of explicit language in his set, Eminem closed the show with high energy, and the audience at the show responded well, rapping along with him. Although a free, somewhat family oriented show could probably have done without Eminem’s dozens of f-bombs, he ended the concert with power and energy.
While overall the show was a bit longer than it needed to be at a run time of three hours, the Concert for Valor delivered an evening of patriotism and community.