Together at Home: The Virtual Concert with an Irish Connection

Declan Kelly, the Tipperary-born executive producer of the virtual concert.

Peter McNamara

“One World: Together at Home,” the two-hour star-studded virtual concert featuring Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, John Legend, Elton John, and numerous other artists, took place on Saturday April 18th.
This unprecedented musical event, organised by Global Citizen and the World Health Organization, raised $127.9 million for health care workers and coronavirus relief, and was viewed by staggering 270 million people across the globe, on television and digital platforms.
Together at Home was a lockdown concert for a lockdown world. The biggest artists in the world performed free of charge from their own living rooms. The money raised – through individual and corporate donations – will go toward funding personal protection equipment (PPE), testing kits and laboratory capacity, especially in the developing world. Itʼs been described as “the Live Aid for the digital generation”.
And, like Live Aid, there’s an Irishman at the helm: Tipperary-born Declan Kelly served as executive producer of the One World event. That said, compared with the more in-your-face Bob Geldof, Kelly keeps a low profile, and to date has yet to be seen gesticulating onscreen, asking for “f***ing money”.
After quitting journalism, Declan Kelly went into business consultancy and co-founded Teneo in 2011, a firm in New York with links to the Democratic Party. Last year, he sold a majority stake to a private equity group for more than $350 million. He remains as Teneo chief executive and chairman.
He is said to be proud of his roots in Portroe, Co Tipperary and Teneo is the main sponsor of the reigning All-Ireland hurling champions. Heʼs also the older brother of the newly elected Labour leader, Alan Kelly.
Kelly is well-known in philanthropic circles. This will be his most public fundraising effort to date.
For his part, Kelly said he was proud to be involved in something that would help fight the global pandemic of Covid-19.
“We at Teneo have a long-standing partnership with Global Citizen and are deeply committed to doing our part to help rally private sector support for this critical effort,” he recently told The Irish Times.
The impressive roster of Together at Home performers also featured powerful contributions from chart-topping Irish artists Hozier and Niall Horan. The concert is available to view in full on YouTube. But if you’d rather not sit through the entire six hours, many media outlets offer a “best of” showcase.
It takes a moment of serendipity…
The idea for the digital concert came from Kelly and Hugh Evans, the chief executive of Global Citizen, a New York-based NGO that seeks to end extreme poverty in the 59 poorest countries in the world by 2030. Kelly is on the charityʼs board and his company Teneo has partnered with Global Citizen on many previous initiatives. The Together at Home event grew out of an even more ambitious series of Global Citizen concerts slated to happen in September.
Global Goal Live was to be a series of eight concerts on the five continents to raise money to fight global poverty. Those concerts were provisionally slated for September 26th with Dublin as a possible venue, but, like everything else, are on hold at present. Kelly and Evans soon began to consider the possibility, if any, of holding their charity concerts online.
They approached Lady Gaga, who had been involved with fundraising for Global Citizen in the past, to seek her advice on how such a “concert” could be held. When Kelly and Evans called her they found the mega-star self-isolating at home as she suffers from fibromyalgia, a condition that affects the nervous system and causes chronic pain, and which puts her in a high-risk category for Covid-19. The notion of stars performing in their own homes took hold. And by the end of the conversation, Lady Gaga was fully on board as curator of the event.
From then, things came together with a dizzying speed. In ordinary times, it would be a staggering challenge to assemble so many stars to perform at one event. Now, however, with live events cancelled across the board, and many of the world’s biggest talents at a loose end at home, Lady Gaga didn’t have to push too hard to win commitments.
Among those who took part were Andrea Bocelli, Billie Eilish, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Chris Martin of Coldplay, David Beckham, Eddie Vedder, Elton John, Idris and Sabrina Elba, John Legend, Keith Urban, Kerry Washington, Lang Lang, Lizzo, Maluma, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, Amy Poehler, Awkwafina, Camila Cabello, Celine Dion, Ellen DeGeneres, Jennifer Lopez, LL Cool J, Lupita Nyongʼo, Matthew McConaughey, Oprah Winfrey, Pharrell Williams, Sam Smith, Shawn Mendes, Taylor Swift, Usher and Victoria Beckham.
Joint digital hosts for the evening were the three main stays of US television: Jimmy Fallon of The Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel of Jimmy Kimmel Live and Stephen Colbert of The Late Show.
It was first aired on various networks in the US between 8pm and 10pm (1-3am Irish time) on Saturday April 18th. RTÉ put on a two-hour special on Sunday, April 19th, at 7pm, with Doireann Garrihy and Eoghan McDermott giving an Irish take on proceedings.

Intimate Performances (and Fancy Living Rooms!)
Of the 270 million people who tuned in to watch the Together at Home concert, most were there to enjoy the music, and to bear witness to this historic event. Of course, there must have been a few of us ordinary folk who couldn’t pass up a chance to peek inside the homes of these stay-at-home stars. In modern-looking living rooms, in plush and cosy bedrooms, and in light-filled spacious conservatories, the stars came onto our screens in single file and made their contribution.
Of course, some connected better with their audience than others (quite literally in a few cases, due to dodgy broadband). The great Sir Paul McCartney made the rookie mistake of filming his contribution in portrait as opposed to landscape mode on his phone. And, instead of showing us inside his home, Sir Elton John chose a more unusual place to record his musical piece: millions watched as the legend belted out ‘I’m Still Standing’ on a grand piano bizarrely located beneath a basketball hoop – and we thought white men couldn’t jump.
Irish star Niall Horan played an acoustic version of his song Black and White from his latest album, along with some of his more well-known tracks, including the smash-hit Slow Hands. After his performance, the former One Direction singer received much praise online for his guitar skills. It seems people were glad to see a pop star able to play his own stuff.
Fans tuning in to Together At Home were left stunned to discover where chart-topping star Hozier is from. As we all know well, the 30-year-old, whose real name is Andrew John Hozier-Byrne, is a proud native of Bray, Co. Wicklow.
Appearing on screens against a simple wall, and wearing a dashing black polo neck jumper, Hozier sang his heart out on Take Me to Church, to the delight of fans. However, after Hozier delivered a message of solidarity and support to frontline workers in his Irish accent, many took to Twitter upon seeing the singer on screen, as they couldn’t believe he is an Irishman.
“How did I not know Hozier is IRISH no wonder I luv him,” one bewildered fan wondered. Countless others rushed to tweet variations of the cry: “Wait Hozier is Irish?” Better-informed fans were shocked by the ignorance on display. One tweeted, with no small amount of ferocity and scorn: “how did y’all not know Hozier is Irish?” Right on.
For their contribution, reliable Las Vegas showmen The Killers, deployed the bulletproof “Mr Brightside” as a duo (with a Casio keyboard straight from Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights). Rita Ora brings pop-video style different camera angles to the banger “I Will Never Let You Down” – and teams up with Liam Payne remotely for their Fifty Shades Freed collab ‘For You’.
Following an earlier all-the-feels rendition of “Mad World”, Adam Lambert keeps glam and carries on with the turbo-charged bop ‘Superpower’, and the reliably magnetic Christine And The Queens delivers an early stand-out moment with spine-tingling versions of “People I’ve Been Sad” and “Mountains (We Met)” – busting her moves on an occasionally distracting squeaky floor.
When Lady Gaga appears for the main event, she declares: “What I’d like tonight, if I can, is to give you the permission for the moment to… ‘Smile’ ”, before launching into a theatrical cover of the Nat King Cole ballad. Stevie Wonder poignantly tackles his late friend Bill Withers’s “Lean On Me”, before Paul McCartney pays tribute to his late mother Mary, who was a nurse and midwife, then takes to the piano for “Lady Madonna”.
Throughout the night, each performance is followed by Trócaire-style segments highlighting some of the heroes involved in combating the awfulness outside.
The show avoids any direct political points, but it’s hard to see it as anything other than a ringing endorsement of the WHO, this coming mere days after President Trump’s announcement he would defund the organisation. Also, although the event mostly passed in a spirit of all-in-this-togetherness, Beyoncé, while she wasn’t singing, took a moment to deliver an added dose of reality. The former Destiny’s Child singer highlighted in no uncertain terms the effect of coronavirus on black Americans who “disproportionately belong to those essential parts of the workforce that do not have the luxury of working from home”.
The most powerful moments arrive when personal tracks from Billie Joe Armstrong and Taylor Swift are imbued with new contextual resonance.
Green Day‘s “Wake Me Up When September Ends”, written about Armstrong’s father, who died of cancer, is poignantly accompanied by footage of empty streets. Despite vowing never to sing “Soon You’ll Get Better” live because it concerns her mother’s cancer diagnosis, Swift delivers its powerful, vivid lyrics about praying in doctor’s waiting rooms – visibly overcome at points – to devastating effect.
The grand finale, meanwhile, included a surprise group performance by Céline Dion, John Legend, Lady Gaga, and Andrea Boccelli teaming up with pianist Lang Lang, to end the special on a high note. Their remotely choreographed version of “The Prayer” is fluid, seamless, and heart-warming.