Sixty thousand fans screamed as a surprise act took the stage. As I heard the opening chords of “Imagine,” the lights came up and I recognized singer John Legend at the piano.
The performance united concertgoers at a New York free music festival Sept. 29. The Global Citizen Festival aimed to raise awareness for the fight against global poverty by bringing college students, parents and kids to the Great Lawn in New York City’s Central Park. Concert organizer Global Citizen distributed free tickets to people who signed online petitions and posted on Twitter and Facebook about the perils of poverty. After countless social media posts, I was lucky enough to win one of those tickets.
At the concert, celebrities like Katie Couric, Selena Gomez and Olivia Wilde spoke about the conditions millions of impoverished people live in and offered ways to help through various organizations for aid, medicine and research.
Somalian hip-hop artist K’Naan opened the concert, ending his set with his feel-good anthem “Wavin’ Flag,” the theme song of the 2010 World Cup. Alternative rock group Band of Horses followed.
Next came the Black Keys, to the excitement of many fans. The Keys opened with “Howlin’ for You” and also performed their hits “Lonely Boy” and “Gold on the Ceiling.” Extended guitar interludes and jams made their popular songs sound even better live.
Foo Fighters took the stage next and began to engage the crowd with their alternative grunge rock. Lead singer Dave Grohl told the crowd that this could be their last show for a while, but that didn’t stop the band from rocking through a set of its greatest hits. The entire crowd had its hands in the air and sang along. Grohl also captivated fans with his conversational tone during his set.
“I wish we could play all night,” he said. “But I’d rather see Neil Young.”
I also wished they could continue belting their arena rock anthems. But then headliner Young emerged to end the concert.
Young’s lack of energy and extended interludes didn’t ignite the crowds like previous acts did. But he ended strong with “Rockin’ in the Free World,” when all the performers came out to share the moment of joining together to fight poverty. The ending summed up a great night, with generation-spanning performers coming together to fight for a worthy cause.