Springsteen and Legend launched “Shining a Light: A Concert for Progress on Race in America” at the Shrine Auditorium on Wednesday with a rendition of “American Skin (41 Shots),” a song Springsteen wrote about the 1999 police shooting death of Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo.
“Tonight, as we mourn the loss of life in Paris, let us rededicate ourselves to erasing the hate and to creating an America where we can all move on up together toward justice, community, love, brotherhood, sisterhood and freedom,” said actor Morgan Freeman at the beginning of the evening.
The all-star concert was peppered with several duets, including Miguel and Kelly covering En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind” and Nick Jonas joining Andra Day for her “Rise Up.” Church was backed up for his song “Kill a Word” by Robinson, as well as Alicia Keys and Aloe Blacc.
Legend racked up the most collaborations of the night on stage. After kicking off the concert with Springsteen, he was later united with Pink for “Someday We’ll All Be Free” and closed out the event with Big Sean for “One Man Can Change the World.”
The concert was taped for a two-hour special that will air Friday across A&E Networks and iHeartRadio radio and TV stations.
Other performers Wednesday included Zac Brown Band, Sia, Rhiannon Giddens, Sting, Ed Sheeran and Jamie Foxx, who brought his 6-year-old daughter, Annalise, on stage with her friends and asked her to recite the books of the Bible.
Jill Scott delivered the night’s most captivating performance, crooning “Strange Fruit,” the protest song popularized by Billie Holiday, in front of giant screens displaying imagery of lynching.
“Demographics in this country are changing every second of every day,” Lopez said. “You can build a thousand walls, 100 feet high, and nothing will change that. You know why? Because we’ve got tunnels.”
Between performances, videos about racial inequality and violence in Baltimore; Charleston, South Carolina; and Ferguson, Missouri, were broadcast to the audience.
Pharrell Williams spoke with families at the South Carolina church where nine black parishioners were shot and killed June 17. He also performed his song “Freedom.”
Keys visited mothers and children in Baltimore, where protests and rioting followed in April after the death of Freddie Gray, who died after he was injured in police custody.
Legend talked with the wives of police officers in Ferguson, where the death of Michael Brown led to protests and unrest.
The proceeds from the sold-out event will go to the Fund for Progress on Race in America through the United Way.