Big-name Philadelphia music acts, celebrities, and athletes banded together for COVID-19 relief on Thursday night on PHLove, a fast-paced fundraiser that called for unity in the fight against the coronavirus and for more attention be paid to the city’s most vulnerable residents.
The hour-long show, which was broadcast on several local TV and radio stations as well as being streamed on Inquirer.com, opened with an introduction by Phillies owner John Middleton and his wife, Leigh, then immediately got down to business with a performance by Daryl Hall.
The Pottstown native was scheduled to play with his musical partner, John Oates, in their Hoagie Nation festival Saturday at the Mann Center. That show was postponed due to the pandemic and is now scheduled for Sept. 4.
Seated at a keyboard in his home studio, Hall sang “I’m In a Philly Mood,” a low-key soul ballad that name-checked Teddy Pendergrass.
That set the tone for an evening in which Philly musicians paid respect to other Philly musicians while urging viewers and listeners to give to the PHL COVID-19 Fund, which has raised $16 million since March and given more than $13 million in grants to 380 nonprofits in the region.
The fund’s goal, as Roots drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson put it, “is to help out our seniors, and people who are battling hunger, homelessness, and addiction.”
Questlove served as a combination of DJ and host throughout the show. Calling himself “a true-blue Philadelphian,” he stressed his readiness “any time my city throws up the Bat Signal.”
He also put on a master-class tour through the city’s rich music history in two mini-sets in which he played snippets of songs by the Stylistics, Chubby Checker, Meek Mill, Grover Washington Jr., William DeVaughan, Jimmy Heath, Todd Rundgren, Mtume, Schoolly D, and the Dovells.
Athletes and other celebs showed up to praise and profile front-line workers. Phillies star Bryce Harper encouraged quarantined Philadelphians “to hang in there and keep the faith.”
The luminaries included brothers Kevin and Michael Bacon, Bobby Rydell, Jerry “the Geator” Blavat, Instagram motivational speaker Wallace Peeples (Wallo267), the 76ers’ Josh Richardson, new Phillies manager Joe Girardi, ex-Phillie Shane Victorino, and country star Tim McGraw, whose father, Tug, played for the 1980 World Series champs.
The musical performances were uniformly strong.
Amos Lee hit all the high notes with his cover of Eddie Holman’s “Hey There Lonely Girl.” Jay Buchanan of Rival Sons turned in a slowed-down solo acoustic version of Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones,” lingering on the lyric “We gotta be extra careful” that resonates in these anxious times.
Jeffrey Gaines had the most clever and visually appealing social distancing strategy, performing his “To Be Free” atop the Art Museum steps.
Patti LaBelle staged an impressive Zoom performance as the powerful centerpiece of an eight-piece virtual ensemble for an inspirational take on Sam Cooke’s civil rights anthem, “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
And the show closed with a rousing gospel finale, sung by a choir led by Pastor Alyn Walker and Fresh Anointing of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church of Germantown.