By Christine Kearney and Edith Honan
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and the Rolling Stones joined with actors and comedians in headlining a benefit concert on Wednesday for victims of Superstorm Sandy, which six weeks ago devastated scores of communities along the coastline of the U.S. northeast coastline.
The celebrity-packed "12-12-12" concert at New York's Madison Square Garden stretched on for nearly five hours, and organizers said it was distributed to nearly 2 billion people worldwide through television feeds, radio and online streaming.
"How do I begin again? My city's in ruins," Springsteen sang to the packed crowd. He was joined by fellow New Jersey native Jon Bon Jovi for "Born to Run," ushering in a night of musical duets.
Next up, Pink Floyd's Roger Waters performed alongside Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, and later Paul McCartney jammed with the surviving members of "Nirvana."
"This has got to be the largest collection of old English musicians ever assembled in Madison Square Garden," Mick Jagger told the crowd. The Stones, in the midst of a brief U.S. tour, performed "You Got Me Rocking" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash."
Chris Martin of Coldplay jokingly suggested audience members should calculate the average age of the night's performers and agree to donate that much. "And I think you'll raise billions," he said.
At the end of the concert, R&B singer Alicia Keys closed the show with "Empire State of Mind."
To help with the fundraising, celebrities such as Kristen Stewart, Jake Gyllenhaal, Chelsea Clinton and Billy Crystal took part in a telethon during the concert.
Comedian Adam Sandler took the stage for a Sandy-themed spoof on Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," rhyming the title with "Sandy, Screw Ya!"
Backstage, actress Susan Sarandon recounted losing power in her New York home but said that was a small hardship compared with the real victims who lost their homes.
Steven Van Zandt, guitarist of the E Street Band, scolded "the oil companies" and "Wall Street guys" for not doing more to help.
"Even with the music business not what it used to be ... we are proud to be here," he said.
The concert was broadcast live on television, radio, movie theaters, on Facebook and iHeartRadio, and streamed on digital billboards in New York's Times Square, London and Paris.
EXPANDING FUNDRAISING'S REACH
More than 130 people were killed when Sandy pummeled the East Coast of the United States in October. Thousands more were left homeless as the storm tore through areas of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, causing billions of dollars in damage.
Throughout the show, celebrities shared memories of growing up in New York City or the Jersey Shore, and offered shout-outs to first responders.
"Watching my hometown get pummeled was devastating to watch," said actor-comedian Crystal, who grew up on Long Beach, Long Island. "It's a helpless feeling of what's in store for us maybe in the future."
As the show neared its finale, organizers said it had raised $30 million from corporate sponsors, ticket sales and donations. The total raised from called-in pledges will take more time to calculate, said a spokesman for the Robin Hood foundation, the concert's major beneficiary.
Donations raised from the concert produced by Clear Channel Entertainment and the Weinstein Co, will all go to the Robin Hood Relief Fund, which will provide money and materials to groups helping people hardest hit by the storm.
New Jersey is expected to take 40 percent of the total, while the rest will be divided up between New York City, Long Island and Connecticut.
(Additional reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Jill Serjeant, Patricia Reaney and Peter Cooney)