The last time a mega-concert took place in a post-pandemic NYC on the Great Lawn of Central Park, Mother Nature-in the cover of Hurricane Henri- stormed the parade of music stars. The rain forced the event to be canceled midway before Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon could perform themselves.
A month later, on a sunny Saturday, there was no such drama for Global Citizen Live NYC, which was just one of a 24-hour festival across six continents — from London and Paris to Rio De Janeiro and Lagos, Nigeria travel votes for hunger crisis, developing countries’ climate needs and distribution of COVID-19 vaccination. And in a surprising performance, Simon – who was supposed to close the Homecoming concert August 21-provided the finale that the 79-year-old native of Queens was to have five weeks ago and sang classics such as “The Sound of Silence” and “The Boxer.”
It was a fitting end to a night previously owned by another hometown hero: the Bronx’s own Jennifer Lopez. As if to prove she would not be lined up in her own city by any other artist, J.Lo won overnight over musicals other than Billie Eilish, Coldplay and Lizzo.
After a shout from Mayor Bill de Blasio – who, as at the Homecoming Concert, was again greeted by a chorus of messengers – Lopez hit a medley that included her hits “If You Had My Love” and “Love Don’t Cost a Thing. Then she delivered an age-old “Flashdance” -style choreography from her “I’m Glad” video. Lopez did what real icons do: She took it to the next level by bringing two other New York legends forward – LL Cool J and Ja Rule – for “All I Have” and “I’m Real” / “Ain’t It Funny, respectively.
The sexy chemistry between Lopez and LL in particular was enough to get Ben Affleck to pull the plug. And so rocking with a glittering gold Yankees hat – clearly she still loves the hometown squad despite her breakup with their former star Alex Rodriguez – she reminded us not to be fooled by the rocks she has, she’s still “Jenny from the block. ”
It was just one highlight of a seven-hour concert that, although slightly slowed down by the speakers between each performance set-up, reminded us of the power of live music to transport and transcend even in-doing, especially in the hardest of times.
Another New York native, Cyndi Lauper, provided an early highlight by, fittingly for the occasion, adding some world-beat emotion to her 1984 classic “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” She then brought Jon Batiste ahead of “True Colors,” which she described as a “healing song,” before delivering the reserve ballad with a voice that has not lost any of its quirky power.
Batiste – bandleader for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” – later had a solo set that was a bit of a revelation. As he stepped out from behind the piano, he demonstrated his showmanship skills as a singer and dancer backed by a bubbly band.
Sweethearts Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes performed separate sets, though she brought him out from under her to perform their hit duo “Señorita” – and he certainly got more screams than her. And while Mendes’ set that ended with “In My Blood” felt way too long, all the fangirls who sent a collective scream throughout Central Park didn’t seem to mind.
Lizzo was another highlight, hyping the audience with “Good as Hell,” “Truth Hurts” and “Juice.”
“It’s moments like this that give me hope for the future of our planet,” she said. “We don’t care, bitch!”
And Prince Harry and Meghan Markle received a rock star visit as they took the stage to talk about distributing COVID-19 vaccination across the globe.
Vaccines are a “fundamental human rights issue,” Harry said. “Every single person deserves equal access to the vaccine.”
And in a nod to his royal pedigree, Harry said, “The way you were born should not dictate your ability to survive.”
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