NEW YORK (USA Today) -- An epic storm is spawning a historic benefit concert Wednesday night, as rock, sports and Hollywood royalty gather in New York's Madison Square Garden to raise money for victims of Superstorm Sandy. The 12-12-12 Concert for Sandy Relief, which is being beamed via TV, radio, the Web and movie screens to a potential audience estimated at 2 billion, has already raised $35 million from ticket sales before the first note was struck. USA TODAY's Jerry Shriver is offering updates in real time through the evening from the arena, and Lindsay Deutsch will keep you up to date on the acts as they appear.
9:52 - STONES ROCK IT: Jimmy Fallon pauses to tweet the crowd before he begins his monologue. "I live in New York, but I was born in Brooklyn," he says, thanking the heroes of Coney Island before introducing The Rolling Stones: "If you're watching on the Internet, on TV, on the radio, listen to this place rock!" And rock it does, with Mick Jagger and the rest of the band bounding on stage with You Got Me Rocking, followed by Jumping Jack Flash.
9:50 - CRYSTAL CLEAR: Billy Crystal, one of the many hosts, said backstage that he was in California during Sandy, and "watching my hometown (of New York) get pummeled was just horrible. It's a helpless feeling of what's in store for us, maybe, in the future. My wife was born in Far Rockaway (N.Y.) ... and it won't be the same for a long time. That's why we need the government to come in and not play games, not play politics with us.''
9:45 - GREAT PLUCK: Guitar guru Eric Clapton sat down with an acoustic model for a lovely and lusty version of the blues classic Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out, which he had performed with Derek & The Dominoes in the early 1970s. Then he switched to electric for another Dominoes-era tune, the fierce Got To Get Better in a Little While. A version of his signature song, Robert Johnson's Crossroads, took the night deeper into the Delta blues.
9:25 - MEMORIES AT THE SHORE: Jersey-born Daily Show comedian Jon Stewart thanks the "year-round working-class communities" of the Jersey shore for all of his childhood memories: "Every decent milestone came down the Jersey shore... It's the only place in the would I couldn't wait to share with my kids, and now they love it as much as I do." He puts jokes aside to urge viewers that it's time to return the favor by contributing to the rebuilding efforts.
9:20 - LIVIN' ON A PRAYER: Bon Jovi begins Livin' on a Prayer a capella, the crowd screaming back the iconic lyrics, arms raised, as the band begins playing its first chords. Could a single song better represent post-Sandy hope and resilience?
9:15 - HOMETOWN HEROES: New Jersey's own Bon Jovi led his band through the anthemic It's My Life and Dead or Alive, with he and Richie Sambora holding their guitars aloft at the end. Between songs, Bon Jovi told the audience, "This recovery is going to take time. We need your sweat, your heart, your prayers.'' Then he returned a favor by bringing Springsteen out to trade verses on Bon Jovi's You Can't Go Home as shots of devastation and recovery are projected in the background.
9:08 - BRUCE IS BACK: Springsteen returns to accompany Bon Jovi in a lively duet of Who Says You Can't Go Home, the crowd raising their arms in support as shots of Sandy devastation and recovery are projected in the background.
9:00 - LITTLE STEVEN STANDS TALL: E Streeter Steven Van Zandt said backstage that he's "quite proud of the fact that the music business and entertainers in general are always the first ones to help. In this case it's a little more personal because it's the Jersey Shore where we grew up. ... The E Street Band, when there's trouble, we run towards it rather than run away.''
8:50 - JERSEY PRIDE: Twilight actress Kristen Stewart takes the stage to talk about the New Jersey residents affected by Sandy, including the 2 million who lost power. "Jersey strong is not something measured in numbers," she says, before introducing Jon Bon Jovi. "In our time of need, people come together in a way that is unique in a way to who and what we are. I love that," says the famed Garden State rocker in a pre-filmed segment. He then takes the stage with It's My Life, followed by WantedDead of Alive.
8:48 - SANDLER ON SANDY: Adam Sandler, accompanied by Paul Shaffer, parodies Leonard Cohen's classic Hallelujah: "Hallelujah, Sandy, screw ya, we'll get through ya, cuz we're New York...." Brian Williams calls it "a new version for the ages" from the star-filled call center.
8:40 - ON 'THE WALL': Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters brought out a team of young dancers to punctuate excerpts from his rock epic The Wall, which he is currently touring behind. A languorous version of Us and Them from Dark Side of the Moon, featuring a gorgeous sax solo, was a later highlight, as was a spacy Comfortably Numb, where Waters turned over vocals to Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder.
8:15 - AUGMENTED AUDIENCE: The stage wasn't the only star-studded area in the Garden. According to a list provided to media before the show, some 80-plus celebs were in the audience or serving as hosts or phone bank workers, including past and present members of the N.Y. Knicks, Sopranos cast members, Ben Stiller, Chelsea Clinton, governors Mario Cuomo (N.Y.) and Chris Christie (N.J.), Martha Stewart, Blake Lively, Jeremy Piven, Katie Holmes, Whoopi Goldberg, Scarlett Johansson and Naomi Campbell.
8:10 - BILLY CRYSTAL: Billy Crystal gave the official welcome: "We're like that great scene in Raging Bull, where Jake LaMotta gets beat up badly by Sugar Ray Robinson, he staggers across the ring bloodied and battered and says what we're going to say to Hurricane Sandy tonight, 'You didn't put me down. You didn't put me down.' And not only does Sandy not put us down, somehow we stand on our feet, and tonight with your help we emerge stronger and better than before," encouraging citizens to donate.
7:55 - STORMING THE STAGE: Following a montage of news footage of the storm projected on the stage, hometown heroes Bruce Springsteen and the full E Street Band (complete with blazing horn section) opened the show with the uplifting Land of Hopes and Dreams, which ends with a snippet of the gospel nugget People Get Ready. That led into the title track from his latest album (and recently Grammy nominated) Wrecking Ball, which carries a theme of resilience amid destruction; and the rebuilding anthem My City of Ruins, written a decade ago for his adopted - and hard-hit by Sandy - hometown of Asbury Park, N.J. Springsteen, who has sung the song at several earlier Sandy benefits, hit the "rise up!'' chorus with extra gospel fervor, and faded out with lines from Jersey Girl. New Jersey native Jon Bon Jovi then joined the band for Born to Run.
7:30 - BRUCE: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band take the stage to kick off the show. Clarence Clemons' nephew Jake is on saxophone.
7:25 - ROLE MODELS: Organizers drew inspiration from several other large-scale benefit concerts held at the Garden. In 1971, two Concerts for Bangladesh were staged, which raised $250,000 for famine relief (and $12 million via spin-off projects). They were organized by Ravi Shankar, who died Tuesday, and also featured Eric Clapton, who plays Wednesday. The post-9/11 Concert for New York City in 2001 was organized by Paul McCartney. It raised an estimated $65 million,and featured a number of the artists who appeared Wednesday.