Concerts for cause draw big names to Big Apple

Shows benefit New York cancer center

Bon Jovi, Jerry Seinfeld, Brian Wilson and Andrea Bocelli are among the acts who will perform in various New York venues throughout 2008 as part of the inaugural Stand Up for a Cure concert series, designed to raise funds and awareness for lung cancer research at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

In the week leading to the U.S. leg of its Lost Highway world tour, Bon Jovi will launch the series with a sold-out concert Tuesday at the 3,500-capacity Hammerstein Ballroom. The intimate show will be dedicated to Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora's father, Adam Sambora, who received care at Memorial Sloan-Kettering before dying of cancer last year.

"Cancer is relentless; you can't stop it," Sambora said in an interview. "Hopefully this money will help find answers."

The Hammerstein concert — being sponsored by CityView Racquet Club, with AEG Live donating its time to handle production — already has raised $1 million, according to Sambora, who will open the show with a 30-minute solo set. He said the money will fund two mobile hospice units for low-income neighborhoods in New York. The units will be named after Sambora's father.

Tickets for the Bon Jovi benefit concert were priced at $275-$1,500.

Stand Up for a Cure, a nonprofit organization comprising nurses, physicians and family members, hopes to "pull off between five and eight shows this year," said Jordan Belkin, the organization's executive producer, who also serves as a registered oncology nurse at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. "It's one of the great ways we have to bring people out and get them excited and at the same time raise money."

Other confirmed Stand Up for a Cure concerts this year include a June 2 stand-up performance from Seinfeld at the 5,600-seat WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden, a July 11 concert with Wilson and special guests at the Hammerstein and a Bocelli performance in December.

Belkin is reaching out to additional artists and hopes to create "an experience as opposed to a straightforward concert." For example, "I'd love to take Andrea Bocelli and put him in Cipriani with a beautiful Italian dinner with amazing floral arrangements and have it just be him and a piano," he said. "We haven't determined the venue yet, but we may do a sit-down dinner."

A limited number of tickets for future benefit shows will be available to the public through Stand Up for a Cure's Web site and can also be purchased by calling (800) 697-4697 (800-NY SHOWS). Belkin said the group plans to roll out a series of public service announcements on New York radio stations, along with paid print advertisements.

In addition to concert performances, each event will feature a red carpet, a program journal containing memory pages and facts about lung cancer and a VIP reception for "people who have paid thousands of dollars for their seats," Belkin said.

He hopes that the concert series will not only raise money for cancer research but also awareness for what he calls a "severely under-funded" disease.

"It's the No. 1 cause of cancer-related deaths in the world," he said. "We need to get the message out and get money into the programs that are offering a potential cure for treatment. By groups like Bon Jovi donating their time and support to this cause, I think we're getting closer to doing so."

Mitchell Peters is a correspondent for Billboard.