A star-studded lineup took to the stage at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night at a benefit concert for victims of superstorm Sandy, while other celebrities lent a hand by answering donation phone calls in the televised fundraiser.

Rock legend Bruce Springsteen opened with hit songs and a shout-out to his home state of New Jersey, which saw massive devastation along the shore when Sandy tore along the U.S. East Coast earlier this year.

Springsteen and his E Street Band began the show with a roar, singing Land of Hope and Dreams and Wrecking Ball. He addressed the rebuilding process before his song My City of Ruins. He noted that the song was written about the hard times suffered by Asbury Park, N.J., before a renaissance over the past decade.

He lauded the Jersey Shore as an inclusive area, where the rich and the poor can find a place.

"I pray that that characteristic remains along the Jersey Shore because that's what makes it special," Springsteen said.

Roger Waters drew roars as he performed, and Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder later joined Waters to perform the Pink Floyd hit Comfortably Numb.

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Bruce Springsteen, bottom left, performs with Jon Bon Jovi, bottom right, and drummer Max Weinberg, top, during the 12-12-12 benefit concert for victims of superstorm Sandy. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Later, Bon Jovi and Springsteen took the stage together, drawing huge roars as the New Jersey natives performed together singing Who Says You Can't Go Home.

Springsteen was just the first in a packed lineup that included Roger Waters, Kanye West, the Rolling Stones and Alicia Keys.

Eric Clapton followed Springsteen, serenading police officers with an acoustic rendition of Nobody Knows When You're Down and Out

Late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon — one of many celebrities performing master of ceremonies duties between acts — said he was proud to be helping at the concert, from which 100 per cent of proceeds will go to superstorm Sandy relief efforts, for victims of the storm that hit the east coast of the U.S. on Oct. 29. Thousands of people had their homes destroyed when Sandy struck New York state and New Jersey.  

Sandy benefit concert performers

A list of just some of the performers from the 12-12-12 concert at Madison Square Garden:

  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Roger Waters
  • Jon Bon Jovi
  • Eric Clapton
  • Kanye West
  • The Who
  • Alicia Keys
  • The Rolling Stones
  • Bill Joel
  • Chris Martin

"Tonight is such a great celebration of the spirit of New York City," he said, before introducing the Rolling Stones to the crowd. "This is what we do here."

The 12-12-12 concert at Madison Square Garden was available on television and online to about two billion people, according to James Dolan, one of the producers. None of the main U.S. networks carried the special, but 34 smaller networks did, including HBO and Showtime.

The sold-out benefit was produced by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who said the concert raised $30 million before Wednesday night's show. Ticket prices ranged from $150 to $2,500. Twenty-seven theatres in the New York region and dozens more elsewhere were showing the concert live.

During the concert, celebreties manned telephone lines and took further donations from the public. Cast members from Saturday Night Live and The Sopranos, Kristin Stewart and Adam Sandler were among the celebrities who staffed shifts in the phone room, where some callers said they would donate to the fund in lieu of exchanging gifts this holiday season.

In one of the evening's biggest surprises, former REM frontman Michael Stipe joined Coldplay's Chris Martin on stage for a rendition of REM's Losing My Religion.

"He came out of retirement for that song, and now he’s gone right back in," Martin said after Stipe left the stage to raucous applause.

Paul McCartney, Nirvana perform together

But Wednesday's concert for victims of superstorm Sandy made music history after Paul McCartney sang with former members of Nirvana.

McCartney stood in for the late Kurt Cobain when he performed with Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, who have seldom performed together in the last 20 years.

'Somebody whispered to me: 'That's Nirvana. You're Kurt.' I couldn't believe it.'—Paul McCartney

McCartney’s appearance with the remaining members of Nirvana (Cobain died in 1994) came at the end of the evening. He then called Sandy relief workers and ordinary citizens to join him on stage as Alicia Keyes sat at the piano for a performance of Empire State of Mind.

Grohl recently invited McCartney to come along to "jam with some mates," according to reports in the British press.

The group, with Grohl on drums, Novoselic on bass and Pat Smear, who toured with Nirvana, on guitar, ended up creating a new song with the former Beatle.

"I didn't really know who they were," McCartney said. "They are saying how good it is to be back together. I said: 'Whoa? You guys haven't played together for all that time?' And somebody whispered to me: 'That's Nirvana. You're Kurt.' I couldn't believe it."

With files from The Associated Press