as Jay Z, No Doubt and Carrie Underwood
Headline Third Annual Event in New York City
A SoundPress.net Feature Article by Rich and Laura Lynch
The thermometers hit 82 degrees but it felt hotter in the sun in Central Park as the third annual Global Citizen Festival got underway on September 27, 2014 in New York City to cap off an eventful United Nations week in the Big Apple.
Once again, the Global Citizen Festival took over Central Park's Great Lawn in 2014.
As members of the press covering the event for the second year in a row we can report that our experiences in 2013 and 2014 differed like night and day. The security gauntlet this year consisted in part of a body scan, bomb sniffing dogs, a metal detector and a vigorous bag search - all overseen by Homeland Security, the FBI and the NYPD. Many media veterans conveyed to us that this was the most extreme inspection they had ever endured.
Apparently, this is what happens when a handful of narrow minded extremists gain power over our way of life. And, that's a shame because on this day a different group of determined individuals were gathering for the third year in a row to raise awareness with a call to action to improve the lives of the world's most impoverished people. Talk about contrasts!
The Global Citizen Festival is the brainchild of Hugh Evans, an Australian humanitarian and founder of the Global Poverty Project. His work consists of promoting youth advocacy and volunteerism in order to reduce extreme poverty in developing countries and his efforts have culminated in three (so far) spotlight concerts on the Great Lawn in midtown Manhattan. The sensory stimulating events are known for bringing together world-class musicians, television stars and international dignitaries around a common theme and cause. In 2014 the hot topic was -- "We can be the generation to end extreme poverty by 2030".
Despite big name stars from the top of the pops the festival was more than just music. It was about awareness, education, mobilization, momentum and support. These prevailing themes have been the crux of the concerts that have taken place the last Saturday in September since 2012 to coincide with the week of General Assembly Meetings of the United Nations.
Global Citizen is an app, movement and website that revolves around the idea that individuals along with governments and non-profits have a role in ending extreme poverty by 2030. Educated citizens can be advocates for change, they make informed consumer decisions and they champion successful NGOs who are already winning the fight against poverty.
Headliners Jay Z, Carrie Underwood, Sting and No Doubt in New York City.
The Global Citizen Festival shined a light on the organizations that are successfully making changes for the better. Thus, empowering the people in Central Park and those watching on new broadcast partners MSNBC & NBC to learn more about the issues and decide what they can do to make a difference. The Global Citizen Festival was a free event where attendees took on-line actions to earn points for the drawing of the concert tickets, a win-win structure that has been in place for the past three years.
Since its inception the Global Citizen Festival has been backed by big name artists including Neil Young, The Foo Fighters, The Black Keys, Bono, Kings of Leon, Alicia Keys, John Mayer and Stevie Wonder. The 2014 star-studded line-up featured Jay Z, No Doubt, Carrie Underwood, fun, The Roots and Tiesto.
The event opened with a film about health, sanitation and water that were the hot topics addressed throughout the concert. There was also a strong emphasis on educating women and girls as part of the plan to eradicate poverty. Global Citizen is putting the heat on world leaders to commit funds to these efforts and calling on society to keep the fighting flames alive.
Tiesto was the first artist to take the stage in the shadow of the large red circle that is part of Global Citizen's logo. In the middle of the circle and on both sides of the stage were big screens used for videos as well as effects during the musical portions of the show. Tiesto is a Dutch DJ and record producer. He is well respected for philanthropy and his progressive trance music. Tiesto used a full spectrum of equipment and loops to craft his danceable grooves that had the Central Park crowd jumping with their hands raised in the air. The highlight of his set was the witty "I Like Us Better When We're Wasted" that combined catchy hooks with heavy beats.
In addition to short informative films there were celebrities and world leaders who spoke about the issues and more significantly the solutions. The Queen and Princess of Sweden talked about the importance of protecting children. Throughout the event there was a strong emphasis on education especially for oppressed women and girls, after all learning leads to empowerment and improvements at the community level and beyond.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi;
MSNBC's Tamron Hall ; and, entertainers Katie Holmes & Connie Britton.
Special guest Alicia Keys invited artists from Israel and Palestine to join her to perform the heartfelt "We Are Here". A string section supported Alicia on piano as the two musicians sang some of the song in their native languages. It was a powerful moment proving that people from places of conflict can work together for the greater good.
The Roots might be best known as the house band for Jimmy Fallon since 2009 but they are also a hip-hop neo-soul band with a combination of over a dozen CDs and EPs to their credit. The group which included a sousaphone player and plenty of percussion along with singers presented an animated show. During their set a film about the importance of sanitation and protecting water was shown. The narrator stated that people have more cell phones than toilets, a sobering fact to think that there are many folks who lack basic facilities. This led to direct call to policy makers to pursue the Water for the World Act (2013) in which the USA would provide more aid and work with foreign nations to improve water resources and sanitation around the globe. To punctuate that point The Roots jammed out on the funky "Water".
"Biggest crowd we ever played for," enthused fun a NYC-indie-pop band who presented an energetic set with some sing-alongs to engage the audience. Connie Britton from the TV show Nashville spoke about clean water as did Narendra Modi the recently elected Prime Minister of India. He affirmed that the "youth is the future of tomorrow". He declared his aim to have clean water for all of India a county that is making great strides. He shared a few lines in Sanskrit before closing with the Star Wars quote "may the force be with you."
Carrie Underwood broke out in 2005 after winning American Idol. Her cross-over style of country has sold millions of records. Carrie with her talented team played her hits including the moving "Jesus Take the Wheel" and "Cowboy Casanova". During her set Jim Young Kim President of the World Bank discussed the health concerns in many countries that are due to the lack of clean water and toilets. He countered it with the announcement that the World Bank would be committing 15 billion over the next five years to sanitation and water solutions. Carrie was back and in the context of the issues presented she shared a creative countrified spin on R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts". "Blown Away" and "Before He Cheats" brought Underwood's set to a rocking close.
The grandchildren of Nelson Mandel discussed the importance of immunizations before No Doubt appeared. Everything about the ska band was colorful from their instruments, to their stage presence and mainly their music. Lead singer Gwen Stefani worked the crowd and the whole stage right from the start with "Keep On Dancing".
Alicia Keys made a return to Global Fest; fun lead singer Nate Ruess; Questlove from The Roots; and, the entrancing Tiesto.
No Doubt made full use of videos that added to a vibrant series of their most popular songs such as the reggae inspired "Underneath It All", the jumping "Just A Girl" and a sassy "Simple Kind of Life". For much of No Doubt's set fans were waving their arms and dancing to the band's beguiling beats. Their show culminated when Sting strolled out to sing The Police's "Message in A Bottle" with both Sting and Gwen sharing that familiar refrain "sending out an SOS to the world".
Hugh Jackman stated that we can be the generation that ends poverty. He called on individuals and nations to do their part. Ban Ki-moon UN Secretary-General discussed solar power, sustainability and vaccinations as part of the plan to build a better world for all. Last but not least was Jay Z who used samples, videos and deep down heavy beats to punctuate his raps. "Empire State of Mind" was a home run with the Central Park crowd with its lyrical and visual images of NYC. The audience had their arms in the air and were rapping along with Jay Z for much of his segment of the concert.
"If you believe in this cause, make some noise," demanded Jay Z and the crowd complied. It was clear that his fans were very familiar with his words and work as more daunting rhythms underlined "99 Problems". Jay Z's wife Beyonce joined him as a surprise guest to close the concert. The power couple presented a powerful pairing of "Holy Grail and "Young Forever".
"I'm joining the 2014 Global Citizen Festival because I believe through actions, whether it be by raising awareness, getting involved or educating ourselves, the goal to end extreme poverty by 2030 is possible," said Jay Z in a statement that was released earlier this year. So the heat is on America, Global Citizens and World Leaders to all do our part to end extreme poverty!
A look at the Central Park East skyline and a portion of the 60,000 humans attending the Global Citizen Festival.
Related Links: For more information on the GLOBAL CITIZEN FESTIVAL and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- GlobalCitizen.org | Global Citizen Festival - 2013 | Global Citizen Festival - 2012
(Originally Published on September 29, 2014)
Tom Petty 40th Anny Tour Hits the Ground Running