New York’s Central Park concert rained before Springsteen, Paul Simon
NEW YORK – It seemed like an incredible omen when, exactly one minute before the debut of “We Love NYC: The Homecoming Concert”, the sun was shining through what had been a completely cloudy day.
But the bright metaphor for what this five-hour extravaganza was designed to celebrate – the emergence of some New York City of the oldest and the deadliest Waves of COVID – ended so much in 2021: with a giant sigh.
About halfway through the Saturday night rally on the Great Lawn in Central Park – just like Barry Manilow was in the process of changing from “Mandy” to one of her other countless hits – rain, lightning, and an evacuation order from the city scene canceled the merriment.
The 60,000 fans on site (vaccinations were compulsory to attend the free show) as well as those who watched CNN’s live broadcast, were denied performances by some of the high-profile names selected for the event: Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, The Killers and Patti Smith among them.
For nearly three hours after fans fled the concert site in the downpour, CNN presenter Anderson Cooper kept viewers engaged with funny stories, his signature laugh, and phone calls with Costello, Smith and Manilow, who intentionally added irony with a few excerpts from “I Made It Through The Rain.”
But while concert curator and music titan Clive Davis, along with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio – both of whom made stage appearances earlier in the concert – hoped to reboot the music even without an audience, the Relentless rain led to an official cancellation just before 10:30 p.m. The organizers had no information in the hours that followed on a possible catch-up date.
As the fiery event ended abruptly, the previous 2.5 hours of performances were filled with notable moments that at least recalled a sense of normalcy.
Whether it’s the fan launching her own Rockettes routine as the New York Philharmonic Orchestra played “(Theme From) New York, New York” or the whole audience screaming with “Don’t Stop Believin ‘”from Journey and the timeless“ Copacabana ”from Manilow,” attendees savored the energy emanating from the stage emblazoned with the letters NYC
A rotating platform of group setups allowed for seamless transitions between acts, which included Kane Brown, Santana with Wyclef Jean and Rob Thomas, Julia Michaels and JP Saxe, Polo G and a shimmering shirted Jon Batiste, who has electrified the scene with “Freedom. “
• The New York Philharmonic dazzled both with its own musical prowess and the captivating presence of conductor Marin Alsop, who exuded pure joy as she led the orchestra through a New- inspired medley. York style including “Arthur’s Theme by Christopher Cross (Best That You Can) Do)” and “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel.
The Philharmonic remained on stage to support the typically powerful and graceful Andrea Bocelli who said he wanted to sing “O Sole Mio” because it is “a song that says after the storm is a golden sky “.
Jennifer Hudson also shared the stage with the orchestra, arriving in a gown with her hair up, as she girds a stunning rendition of Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma”. The song could have been a backhanded tribute to Aretha Franklin, whom Hudson currently portrays onscreen in “Respect,” as the soul queen made music television history in 1998 when she performed the song. ‘aria at the last minute at the Grammy Awards. Hudson ended his performance with a slight smile and a nod that seemed to say, “Yeah, that went well.”
• While LL Cool J was the name announced, the number of surprise guests who joined him amounted to a parade of New York hip-hop royalty. Grandmaster Flash and Miss Mel and Scorpio from The Furious Five presented “The Message”; Busta Rhymes fought through “Freak Show”; Fat Joe energized the crowd with “All The Way Up” and, with Remy Ma, “Lean Back”; while A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie walked the stage during “Look Back At It”. But when LL Cool J, his jeweled fingers, broke through a group of choir members to proclaim “Don’t call that a comeback” and walked through the rest of “Mama Said Knock You Out” with a fiery delivery, there was no doubt reigning on the scene. The arrival of Run-DMC’s Rev Run to separate rhymes with LL on “It’s Tricky” and “Rock the Bells” elevated the moment to classic.
• The reputation of Earth, Wind & Fire as one of the most magnetic live acts remained intact with a set of two songs. The group released their 1975 remake of “Can’t Hide Love”, newly renamed “You Want My Love,” and co-starred with song producer Babyface and guest vocalist Lucky Daye. The slow, silky jam filled with ascending harmonies was paired with the soul of precision and lively brass that feeds “September,” another singing crowd that, for a few minutes, chased all the clouds.