Global Citizen Festival
- By Hazel Sheffield -
- Oct 03, 2012
Charity gigs haven’t always had the best reputation and at first, if felt like Saturday’s Globa Citizen Festival in Central Park could turn out to be a disappointing affair. The festival was organised in the name of fighting “extreme poverty”. Tickets were free, and the event was live-streamed around the world, so perhaps it was understandable that security was oppressive and services limited. On arrival at the Great Lawn, the audience was shepherded into four enormous pens with bad access to portaloos, no hot food, smoking, or alcohol. If they were hungry, they had no option but to queue for an hour for cold sandwiches and giant cans of ‘Peace Tea’. And then they were left to wait, penned in for hours, until the music started.
But once the music started, things immediately started to improve. In between presentations from NYC Parks and various charity representatives (and a Beyonce video of ‘I Was Here’ a single she released for UN World Humanitarian Day), The Black Keys, Foo Fighters and finally Neil Young and Crazy Horse performed sets.
The Black Keys had a full band with them on the huge front stage - whatever money raised by all that Peace Tea must have offset production costs, because the sound and staging (at least from pen 1) were impeccable. Cameras panned out over some 60,000 people during a Keys set comprised largely of tracks from 2011 album ‘El Camino’ including ‘Lonely Boy’, ‘Gold On The Ceiling’ and ‘Money Maker’.
Dave Grohl announced half way through the Foo Fighters’ set that this was the last performance the band had planned for a while, and they seemed happy to play fan-favourites ‘Times Like These’, ‘These Days’ and ‘Best of You’. “I wish you could see what I can see from up here, because it looks beautiful,” he told the crowd, as the sun set over the Manhattan skyline on the horizon. Luckily, given the whole live-stream thing, cameras were constantly beaming satellite images onto the big screens and the audience didn’t miss out.
The fact that Neil Young was billed to perform with Crazy Horse made his hour-long set of old-men-rocking-out predictable, but most everyone was grateful when he conceded acoustic versions of ‘The Needle and the Damage Done’ and ‘Twisted Road’ half way through. It wasn’t enough to stop people from leaving in droves, and soon holes opened up in the crowds. Those who left missed the inevitable rendition of ‘Rocking In The Free World’, when all the other bands joined Neil Young onstage for the chorus, and Dave Grohl and Dan Auerbach fought for the longest outro solo either side of Young. As the crowd wandered out of the park in the pitch dark, finally free from their pens, there was enough good cheer to save Global Citizen from feeling like a mere PR stunt in the name of charity.
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