“This is amazing, but I wish I knew what was going on,” said James, 19 Morristown, NJ followed by his friend stating, “Yeah, too many speakers that don’t work and they are talking too much – just play the music” Aaron, 18 Morristown, NJ. Many onlookers came as either extreme charitable people – wearing global citizens merchandise and donating to any part of the cause they could and yet on the other spectrum there were thousands of young students who had won the tickets and had little to no idea what was occurring. “I honestly wasn’t even sure what this was for” said a Marymount Manhattan student “but I knew it was free and there was musicians.”
Although the speakers tended to somewhat shove their cause down the throat of the audience in a clear yet somewhat pushy manner – the musicians were slightly subtler in their approach. Kings of Leon, the first lineup of the night, started off with two songs from their new album “Mechanical Bull,” which were greeted well by the fans who knew the songs. It wasn’t until the band played their infamous least favorite song “Sex on Fire” that the crowd all got off their blankets, scarves and tapestries. Ending the set with “Beautiful War” they sang out about “something worth fighting for.” Subtle enough.
Following this set, many citizens would come and go as the sun went down over the park. Standing on line for 40 minutes for the bathroom or 2 hours for a tray of food. The event was dry – no alcohol was sold or allowed in. New York City also banned smoking in the park. This did not stop many people in the crowd from lighting up.
The beautiful and talented songwriter Alicia Keys came out with her guns blazing playing one soulful number in front of the piano after another. It appeared she struggled to find an appropriate way to address the cause – singing “Try sleeping with a broken heart” with a somber video playing behind her. Her strengths appeared when she played her hits “If I Ain’t Got You”, “Girl On Fire” and closing with the inevitable “Empire State of Mind (part 2) which caused the crowd to uproar singing along and raising up lighters and smart phones as if we were saying “Yes, New York – we are here, we understand this.”
The lights of the stage shimmered over the crowd, now looking colder and shifting loser for warmth. A pungent smell of smoke overcame the areas surrounding and crooner John Mayer walked on stage with the statement “ We’re just going to do our thing.” As Mayer started his heartfelt wounded love songs, every single person in the crowd instantly became a couple leaving a few awkward groups isolated. Mayer finally addressed the issues with his 2005 hit “Waiting for the World to fall.”
As the night came to a close, and thousands of fans navigated their way out of the park in the pitch black in promise of French fries an audible phrase came over the leaving crowd. The crowd sang back “We are global citizens, we’re going to change the world”
If that isn’t success, I don’t know what is.