Entertainment & Arts

Elton John hosts star-studded iHeart Living Room coronavirus benefit concert

Elton John Image copyright Elton John/Instagram

Sir Elton John enjoyed a less than quiet night in on Sunday as he was digitally joined by quarantined stars from around the music world for a virtual coronavirus benefit concert.

The British pop legend hosted the iHeart Living Room Concert For America from his home in Los Angeles.

The online festival featured performances from the likes of Billie Eilish, Dave Grohl and Mariah Carey from their sofas and home studios.

It raised funds for two US charities.

Broadcasting from what he claimed was his only house without a piano, the Rocketman dug out his son's keyboard for a rendition of Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me, and also serenaded a delighted Lizzo with an a capella snippet of her track Juice.

"Not long ago, there was another infectious disease that was ignored," said Sir Elton.

"Day in and day out, the disease got worse, because we did nothing. Too many forgot about compassion and decency, and so millions and millions of people perished from Aids.

"But this time, we aren't going to let that happen. So, stay home for the ones you love."

The star was criticised online by some afterwards, however, for comparing the Covid-19 pandemic with the spread of Aids in the 1980s and 90s.

'The host with the biggest heart'

Lady Gaga, who did not sing but did wear sunglasses indoors, described him as "the host with the biggest heart" during the one-hour televised special and told viewers to "find joy however you can" during this period of isolation, and to help their "local communities".

Grammy winner Billie Eilish and her brother and musical partner Finneas O'Connell delivered a chilled out version of her breakout hit Bad Guy - precisely one year after its release.

Eilish, who was relaxing on the couch underneath a baseball cap, sang the track's signature electronic synth line.

Just like opening act Alicia Keys before him, Foo Fighter Dave Grohl dedicated his song to the first responders and healthcare professionals who are treating people with coronavirus, which has taken 2,503 lives in the US so far and killed 1,228 people in the UK.

"I'd like to dedicate this song to all the people out there who are on the frontlines," he said when introducing My Hero. "That are doing their best to get us through all of this.

"If you sing that last chorus every time you wash your hands, I think you might be in good shape," joked Grohl.

Fellow rocker Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day said it was "an honour" to offer up an acoustic rendition of Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

Camila Cabello and boyfriend singer Shawn Mendes are self-isolating together and gave fans a domestic dose of her recent hit My Oh My.

The US-Cuban singer even sang the DaBaby part - in the rapper's absence - after briefly checking the lyrics on her phone.

Manband Backstreet Boys rolled back the years with a performance of their 1999 hit I Want It That Way.

Unlike in the glory days, however, the guys were singing separately, from their respective family homes (with kids popping in and out), and joined together in a WhatsApp/Zoom-style grid - essentially a retro pop version of your post-coronavirus work meetings, but with added Los Angeles swimming pool, courtesy of Nick Carter.

Aside from the host, the UK was represented by Sam Smith, who sang their ballad How Do You Sleep, snapping their fingers for added percussion.

"I don't play an instrument," admitted Smith, adding. "So this is just my voice... I hope that's OK?"

Mariah Carey thanked her twins - aka "Dem Babies" - for "staying patient with me at home and not complaining too much".

She also belted out her 1996 track Always Be My Baby alongside a keyboard player and some remotely placed backing singers, who were beamed in.

The show, which was broadcast on Fox TV and iHeart Radio in the US, raised funds for Feeding America and the First Responders Children's Foundation.

The amount raised was not immediately revealed, but household goods giant Procter & Gamble gave $500,000 (£400,000), which was matched by Fox.

The event filled the gap in the schedule that was left when the iHeart Radio Music Awards were cancelled.

Meanwhile, James Corden is hosting a similar fundraiser from his garage on Monday, with Eilish, Dua Lipa and BTS among those due to join him remotely.

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