NEW YORK (AFP) - A star-studded digital show got under way on Saturday (April 18) with celebrities performing from their homes in support of health workers, ahead of an all-star event to feature Taylor Swift and The Rolling Stones.
The weekend's online party - backed by the international advocacy organisation Global Citizen, in partnership with the World Health Organisation - kicked off with a six-hour pre-show streamed online, with stars across the globe including Jennifer Hudson, Matthew McConaughey, Luis Fonsi and Kesha making appearances via video from their homes.
Soccer phenomenon David Beckham held a video chat with young athletes, encouraging them to keep honing their skills at home with sporting events cancelled indefinitely.
Global Citizen intends for the event, which is not a fund-raiser, to both entertain and act as a "rallying cry" to support health workers and action for charities on a local level, after raising US$35 million (S$50 million) to help fight the coronavirus.
Performers Christine and the Queens and Annie Lennox, actors Don Cheadle and Samuel L Jackson, and soccer star Megan Rapinoe were still on deck to participate.
Adam Lambert performed a rendition of Tears for Fears' hit Mad World, while The Killers delivered a stripped-back version of Mr. Brightside.
And Hudson belted out the Cats theme Memory, with a pianist accompanying her elastic vocals.
"Let's remind ourselves here in these trying times there is still so much kindness, hope and joy in the world," said McConaughey.
Sarah Jessica Parker gave a shout out to medical workers toiling at the hard-hit hospital Elmhurst in New York, the US epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic.
"You are heroes," the Sex And The City star and New Yorker said from her couch.
"We are forever grateful for the sacrifices you have made to keep the community healthy and safe."
Before performing a soulful version of Rainbow in front of her fireplace, pop star Kesha also thanked health workers for "risking your life and your health and your sanity."
"I just think the vulnerability of us all as human beings right now is really showing a really beautiful side to humanity," she said, her cat meowing in the background.
In addition to celebrity appearances the streamed show highlighted the efforts of essential workers worldwide, including medical personnel and those delivering food and sanitary products to vulnerable populations.
Dressed in scrubs, hospital worker Aisha al Muntheri spoke from Paris to say she was proud to serve "on the front lines with my colleagues."
"It's part of our value in medicine to serve humanity," she said.
"The humanity is our common language."
'LOVE LETTER TO THE WORLD'
The digital special precedes a Lady Gaga-curated virtual show that aims to celebrate and support the efforts of medical workers against coronavirus, which has at least 4.5 billion people forced or urged to stay home.
The two-hour primetime event rife with A-listers including Billie Eilish, Elton John, Jennifer Lopez, Celine Dion, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder will begin at 8pm US Eastern Time (8am on Sunday, Singapore time).
American late-night television personalities Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, and Stephen Colbert are set to host, and all four Stones - Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood - will perform.
Lady Gaga told a WHO briefing ahead of the event it was intended to continue the "love letter to the world" that is the "fearless global effort" against Covid-19, which has left more than 157,000 dead worldwide.
Saturday's special "will continue this, telling global stories of triumph and hope, and told to a global audience, truly bringing the world together," Lady Gaga said.
"We can do something to bring joy and respite to the corners of the earth." Global Citizen is urging philanthropists, companies and governments to support the WHO in its coronavirus response efforts, saying it has already raised US$35 million for local organisations and the international health body's Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
"Music provides this moment for us to pause to reflect to unite as one humanity," Global Citizen's chief executive officer Hugh Evans told AFP ahead of the event.
"And to come back together and say you know what, we truly - it's not just hyperbole - we truly are all in this together."