Christina Aguilera, a native of the decimated New York City borough of Staten Island, opened NBC's telethon Friday benefiting victims of superstorm Sandy
The concert began at 8 p.m. Eastern time and was to air at 8 p.m. Western time. Bruce Springsteen, Mary J. Blige, Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Sting and others are performing to benefit the American Red Cross and its disaster relief efforts.
Hosted by Matt Lauer, the event is heavy on stars identified with New Jersey and the New York metropolitan area, which took the brunt of this week's deadly storm. Tina Fey, Jon Stewart and Jimmy Fallon all appeared, and "Sopranos" star James Gandolfini is also participating.
The mood early on was somber but hopeful, from Aguilera's "Beautiful" to Bon Jovi's "Living On a Prayer." Joel picked up the tempo with "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)," and Fallon gamely led an all-star performance of "Under the Boardwalk" that featured Joel, Springsteen and Steven Tyler.
The show will air across the stable of NBC Universal networks, including USA, CNBC, MSNBC, E! Entertainment, The Weather Channel and Bravo.
NBC Universal invited other networks to televise the event, but so far only HBO, Discovery Fitness & Health and Velocity have signed on.
In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the networks organized a benefit together behind the scenes, and it was televised on more than 30 networks simultaneously, including all the big broadcasters.
After Hurricane Katrina, NBC televised its own benefit before the other broadcasters, one that became best known for Kanye West's off-script declaration that "George Bush doesn't care about black people." The other broadcasters cooperated on their own telethon a week later, and NBC televised that one, too.
Also this year, NBC organized and scheduled a telethon on its own and gave others the chance to air it.
Others have declined to televise the telethon, even though ABC parent Walt Disney Co. said it would donate $2 million to the American Red Cross and various ABC shows will promote a "Day of Giving" on Monday. The CBS Corp., Viacom Inc., MTV and Fox network owner News Corp. also announced big donations to the Red Cross.