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Great Lawn concert was great…until Henri dropped in

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | The “We Love NYC: A Homecoming Concert” in Central Park on Saturday was a lot of fun while it lasted.

Everyone in the vaccinated audience was hoping the full, scheduled five-hour show, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., would be able to go on. But about halfway through, raindrops started falling, courtesy of Hurricane Henri, lightly at first.

An announcement came on telling everyone that “due to approaching severe weather all persons should…proceed to your vehicles and protected areas outside of the festival site.”

Andrea Bocelli, left, raised the tenor of the concert. (Photo by Milo Hess)
The stage featured a massive “NYC,” blinking lights and ever-changing video backgrounds. Part of the stage would rotate to bring on the next act. (Photo by Milo Hess)
Jennifer Hudson channeled Aretha Franklin singing Pucini’s “Nessun Dorma.”

Given that the concert was in Manhattan and that many people probably walked, took mass transit or rode Citi Bikes to get to the Great Lawn, the directive to “proceed to your vehicles” seemed a little odd. Maybe whoever wrote the announcement was a suburban “car person”?

Anyway, things soon progressed to a torrential downpour, even setting a one-hour record for rainfall in New York City — nearly 2 inches, from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Balloons bounded around among the crowd. (Photo by Milo Hess)
Keeping cool in the muggy weather during the concert. (Photo by Milo Hess)
Official concert T-shirts were on sale for $10. (Photo by Milo Hess)

As for the music, it was diverse and great. Backed by the New York Philharmonic, Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli belted out a powerful rendition of “’O Sole Mio,” which he noted was Italy’s favorite song.

The blind singer himself had battled COVID.

“We crossed a great storm this year,” he said.

Following along on an operatic note, Jennifer Hudson sang “Nessun Dorma.” In the new biopic “Respect,” Hudson plays Aretha Franklin, who sang the Pucini aria at the ’98 Grammys.

Carlos Santana was going strong. (Photo by Milo Hess)
Former Fugee Wyclef Jean, right, performed on “Maria, Maria” with Carlos Santana. (Photo by Milo Hess)
Concertgoers dug the diverse musical offerings at the Great Lawn concert. (Photo by Milo Hess)

Legendary guitarist Carlos Santana and his band then blew the crowd’s socks off as the pumping bass and bongos were turned up to 11 on “Maria, Maria,” followed by “Smooth” with vocals by Rob Thomas.

Journey also performed a high-energy two-song set, including their feel-good hit “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

Julia Michaels did a duet with JP Saxe. (Photo by Milo Hess)
Arnel Pineda and Journey rocked the “Homecoming Concert” stage. Original vocalist Steve Perry left the band in 1998. (Photo by The Village Sun)

Jon Batiste, the band leader for “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” was the hardest-working performer on the Great Lawn. He busted out some sinuous dance moves, dropping to his knees and scooting along the stage. He also was very spiritual in his remarks to the crowd, saying that we all only live once, so now was the time to “get free” and dance.

Jon Batiste really put on a show. (Photo by Everynight Charley Crespo)

New York City is the birthplace of rap and hip hop. So, fittingly, there was a gathering of some of the genres’ all-time all-stars. Among them were LL Cool J, Rev. Run of Run-DMC, Grandmaster Melle Mel and Scorpio, Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe, French Montana and Remy Ma. They did a medley, spanning from 1982’s groundbreaking “The Message,” to J’s early smash hit “Mama Said Knock You Out” to Fat Joe and Remy Ma’s “Lean Back.”

Rev. Run, left, and LL Cool J were part of a stellar rap and hip-hop lineup. (Photo by The Village Sun)

After being greeted by a round of boos, Mayor de Blasio did a nice job intro’ing Earth Wind & Fire — maybe he has a future as a radio deejay after City Hall. He and his wife, Chirlane McCray, noted they had played one of the iconic funk/pop band’s hits at their wedding.

But the plug was pulled when New York-born crooner Barry Manilow was halfway through his set, having launched into “Copacabana.” Luckily, ponchos had been distributed to concertgoers as they arrived at the Great Lawn.

One thing that had not been available, though, was beer. Only the V.I.P. section could buy alcohol. Others could purchase a beverage called Liquid Death, which is sold in seeming beer cans but is actually “mountain water” from the Alps.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer made the scene. (Photo by The Village Sun)
Clive Davis put together the top acts for the concert. (Photo by Milo Hess)

The event’s emcees were TV news figures Gayle King and Don Lemon. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer gave remarks. So did Colbert. The New York Post blasted Schumer for having the audacity, during the Afghanistan crisis, to do some dance moves with Colbert backstage. Uber-producer Clive Davis, who organized the concert, also spoke.

“Proceed to your vehicles… .” What vehicles? Did they maybe mean Citi Bikes? (Photo by Everynight Charley Crespo)

Some of the biggest acts on the bill, including Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Patti Smith, Elvis Costello, The Killers and Colombian reggaeton star Maluma, never got a chance to perform.

It would be great if the city had them perform at a rain-delayed “Homecoming Concert: Part II.”

One Comment

  1. Karen Rempel Karen Rempel August 25, 2021

    Great recap! Maybe it wasn’t Woodstock, but it was a groovy day and I give double-high-fives to the Mayor and City of New York for offering this free concert and the whole NYC Homecoming week of free concerts to the city of New York.

    The New York Post should be ashamed for blasting Chuck Schumer for dancing at a concert. WTFFFF. He saved the birthplace of hip hop in the Bronx, and also passed National Hip Hop day on the floor of the US Senate. Well done, Chuck.

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