On Sunday night, Fox aired the first primetime coronavirus concert special -- one of several which have been announced in recent days -- and it made for one gripping hour of activism. Hosted by Elton John, Fox Presents the iHeart Living Room Concert for America featured a range of singer-songwriters performing music and sharing words of solidarity from their homes to encourage donations to Feeding America and First Responders Children's Foundation. Despite the challenge of performers having to record themselves with whatever equipment they had available at their homes, they successfully fulfilled their purpose of bringing audiences together, while apart, and championing those who are on the front lines.
Several of the artists adapted their lyrics to imbue new meaning into their numbers or chose songs that had increased resonance in the current climate. Alicia Keys opened the show with "Underdog," and with just one line tweak, it became a tear-jerking nod to the first responders who aren't allowed to socially distance themselves amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Dave Grohl followed that up with a similarly poignant acoustic rendition of the Foo Fighters' "My Hero," with the lyrics perfectly complementing the photos and videos of healthcare workers that were shown throughout the hour. Billie Joe Armstrong's unplugged rendition of Green Day's "I Walk Alone" echoed the eerie loneliness of emptied streets, Demi Lovato's "Skyscraper" was a searing message of hope for first responders, and Sam Smith's "How Do You Sleep?" suddenly sounded like a quietly angry anthem aimed at those in power who've misled the public about this pandemic. (Consider the lyrics, "How do you sleep when you lie to me?/ All that shame and all that danger.")
The Backstreet Boys' "I Want it That Way" might not have an obvious connection to current events, but seeing all five members harmonize from their various homes -- with a couple of kids chiming in with instrumentals -- was truly touching. The same was true for Tim McGraw, as his band played into his earbuds with "Something Like That" so he could sing along from his pool. Meanwhile, Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes knew they'd be giving the tabloids a lot to talk about with their cozy performance of "My Oh My," but they didn't seem to mind making those headlines for the right reasons here. H.E.R.'s on-the-couch version of "Keep Holding On" felt like a warm blanket, and Mariah Carey's closing contribution offered some welcome cheer as she hit all the highest notes on her classic hit, "Always Be My Baby."
Others, like Lizzo and Ellen DeGeneres, chipped in with words of compassion for medical professionals and those battling this virus. And the show, most importantly, made sure to split its focus between these A-listers and those who were truly being celebrated: nurses, doctors, EMTs, police officers, truck drivers, grocery store workers, pharmacists, and everyone else who is working diligently to keep things running amid the shutdown, to keep people safe, and to save lives. Unquestionably, the most heart-swelling moment of the entire set came when a doctor delivered an aching rendition of "Imagine" alongside his colleague at their hospital piano, accompanied by images of all of these everyday heroes in action.
Fox Presents the iHeart Living Room Concert for America will be available to stream in the above video until Wednesday, April 1 at 10 p.m. ET.