By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com
Despite being cut short midway through, the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” in Central Park on Saturday, August 21, was a huge success, having brought together an estimated 60,000 enthusiastic, vaccinated New Yorkers to be entertained by an A-plus list of performers, as eclectic and diverse as New York City.
New Yorkers displayed their trademark hospitality and resiliency in being packed together on the Great Lawn in a way they haven’t been allowed to for the past 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gayle King of CBS pointed to the day that COVID-19 pandemic became real to her: when she heard of a nurse who reused her mask by turn it inside out and used a garbage bag because there was no more PPE.
“New Yorkers found a way – we were the epicenter of the virus, now the epicenter of recovery. There is a way out, even if it takes a while. We’re done with COVID but COVID is not done with us. Stay strong,” before telling the crowd assembled on Central Park’s Great Lawn to “party New York style.”
The concert opened with the New York Philharmonic playing a new “New York Medley” arranged by William Ross of composers and music celebrating New York City, New York’s iconic orchestra, conducted by Marin Alsop, accompanied tenor mega-star Andrea Bocelli who sang Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and Italy’s standard, “O Sol Omio.”
Then the Philharmonic closed its set with its first-ever collaboration with Jennifer Hudson — winner of honors including Academy and Grammy Awards and the star of the new Aretha Franklin biopic — who rather than singing Aretha’s famous ,”Respect,” thrilled the audience (and the orchestra) by singing an opera aria, Nessun dorma from Puccini’s Turandot, which the Queen of Soul herself once sang on the Grammys. (Did not see that coming).
Then began a stunning parade of legendary performers presenting a full spectrum of musical genres and tastes. That was intentional, said producer Clive Davis.
Carlos Santana; Rob Thomas; Journey; Earth, Wind & Fire; Jon Batiste; Hip Hop starsSpliff Star, Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe, LL Cool J, French Montana and Remy Ma; country singer Kane Brown; Julia Michaels; Polo G performing music they are best known for.
Barry Manilow had just sat at the piano, about to begin “I Made It Through the Rain” around 7:30 pm when an announcer cut in, telling the crowd to leave the park immediately due to impending dangerous weather.
That left headliners Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon and The Killers among the performers cut off.
But a light rain quickly turned into a downpour that flooded city streets, and there was thunder and lightning and one could only imagine what would have happened if they did not begin moving people out when they did.
“While it’s disappointing that tonight’s concert had to end early, the safety of everyone in attendance had to come first,” Mayor Bill DeBlasio tweeted. “To everyone who came out tonight: thank you. Thank you for showing the world that New York City is coming back stronger than ever before.”
Here’s the full list of concert performers:
LL COOL J
Earth, Wind & Fire
Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds
The New York Philharmonic
New York City’s biggest cheerleaders, US Senator Chuck Schumer, NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio and Stephen Colbert also addressed the crowd with an upbeat message of New Yorkers having come through one of its worst crises and looking to a brighter future.
Concern that the celebration might be premature given the resurgence of the Delta variant and breakthrough infections among vaccinated was set aside, at least for the evening, as the music got underway.
The concert was for the most part free (plus Ticketmaster fees), but people could pay for VIP packages (with premium location, VIP entrance, private restrooms, concessions with specialty food and drink options) and premium seating, and as the concert got underway, there were rumors of tickets going for as much as $5000.
The Central Park concert was the climax to a week of free concerts in the boroughs: The free concerts, livestreamed by Behind The Rhyme on Twitch, were held:
● Monday, August 16th, 3:00 p.m. at Orchard Beach in The Bronx
● Tuesday, August 17th, 4:00 p.m. at Midland Beach on Staten Island
● Thursday, August 19th, 4:00 p.m. at Brooklyn Army Terminal in Brooklyn
● Friday, August 20th, 4:00 p.m. at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens
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