Entertainment

'Concert for America' like nothing ever produced: 'We're all connected via living rooms'

Mar 29, 2020

Washington (USA) March 29: Mariah Carey is performing from her home studio with a door open so she can watch her children at the same time.
The Backstreet Boys will perform together, but from each of their own homes
Billie Eilish is singing from her family's couch.
"This is something completely different than we've ever tried before," explained iHeart Media president of entertainment John Sykes, who is hard at work putting together "FOX Presents the iHeart Living Room Concert for America" that will air on Sunday night.
When Sykes and iHeart Media chief programming officer Tom Poleman began reaching out to artists, asking them to partake in the "Living Room Concert for America," they emailed Elton John and asked him to perform.
"We were surprised to get an email back, the next day, saying, 'Hey, how about I host?' We would like to take credit for going to him as a host, but it was Elton's idea," Poleman told Fox News.
"He didn't have his piano with him," Sykes added. "He wanted to social distance himself from the piano delivery company, he was following protocol."
Sykes, who co-founded MTV decades ago, and "Jingle Ball" pioneer Poleman have produced some elaborate events during their careers but the logistical issues surrounding the 'Living Room Concert' are unprecedented.
"It's certainly unlike anything that we've ever done. Normally, when we do our shows, we have state-of-the-art equipment, spare no expense to make it look great, you have all the glam squad coming in for the artists, but in this case, all you have is your cell phone and your living room and whatever instruments were there when the quarantine started," Poleman said.
It all started when the "iHeart Radio Music Awards," originally scheduled to air Sunday night on FOX, were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Execs quickly huddled to figure out an alternative.
"We decided, maybe there is an opportunity to use that time to really come to the aid of the people in this country who need help," Sykes said.
Sykes said they wanted to create a fundraiser to raise not only cash, but also awareness for the "incredible work being done by first responders" who represent the "strength and compassion" of America.
"Part of the reason why we couldn't do an [awards] show is because everybody's stuck in their living rooms. So how do you make the most out of being stuck in your living rooms? Let's do a concert where we're all connected via living rooms," Poleman said.
"We did a quick pivot. started calling artists at their homes," Sykes said.
The call to Carey was among the most interesting, putting the coronavirus pandemic in perspective, because she didn't want to leave her kids unattended while performing from her home studio.
"When she's talking to us about doing it, she said, 'I'm gonna have to keep the door open, because I have to keep an eye on the kids,'" Sykes explained.
"It's nice, because you see that Mariah Carey's a real person, too," Poleman said.
"This is a challenging time for everyone in this country, but if you look back at our history, this is a time when America shows its strength and compassion and everybody wants to help," Sykes said.
"Let's create an event that will give the people, who are kind of following protocol, staying at home, a little chance to breathe and relax, also to shine a light on the heroes out there," Sykes said. "The artist, they may be millionaires and live in beautiful homes or whatever, but when they're called on, they're the first ones to say yes."
"We're all kind of in this together," Poleman added.
Poleman, who has even more big-name musicians reaching out to him trying to get involved, is grateful that FOX offered for the concert to be commercial-free so that he can fit as many performances as possible. And it seems like they'll need every available minute, as additional performers will be announced leading up to Sunday's show.
"Artists are coming in like crazy. From all around the world, we're getting phone calls from people who want to support it," he said. "It's amazing when Americans, and really the world, get our back up against the wall, we really shine brightest."
Sykes said they had to "rethink everything" from a logistical standpoint but it pleased with the modern technology that comes with iPhone camera.
"If you put them in the right setting, it looks like a FOX Super Bowl camera," Sykes said. "We sent them to the artist, or they used their own, they set them up in their homes. when you see the quality of these videos you'll be amazed."
Despite using the latest phone technology, Sykes and Poleman admitted it's difficult to produce a show that they're unable to attend.
"We're following protocol, so we're going to be watching a show we produced from our homes," Sykes said.
The Backstreet Boys turned into one of the more challenging acts to arrange under the circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic.
"You have five Backstreet Boys in five different houses and they all have to sing their harmonies, figuring out how to take their phones and connect them all, it's like you're the conductor of an orchestra trying to get them all to play in different places."
"FOX Presents the iHeart Living Room Concert for America" will encourage viewers to support two of the many charitable organizations helping victims and first responders during the pandemic: Feeding America and First Responders Children's Foundation.
"We're going to, hopefully, raise some money and certainly awareness. Every, single break we'll talk about those charities and the artists will really help us promote donations to those important groups," Sykes said.
"FOX Presents the IHeart Living Room Concert for America" will air on Sunday at 9 p.m. EST on all FOX platforms and iHeartMedia radio stations nationwide.
Source: Fox News

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