Moments before the We Love NYC: A Homecoming Concert began at 5:00 p.m. on August 21, the sun broke through overcast skies and baked thousands of vaccinated New Yorkers in Central Park’s Great Lawn. Two-and-a-half hours later, the park was evacuated when lightning brought by Hurricane Henri was seen nearby. Those who lingered in the park hoping the concert would resume quickly were drenched and disappointed.

Barry Manilow was halfway through his set when an announcer advised all attendees to seek shelter. Manilow, who had performed “Mandy” and “Copacabana,” was singing his 1978 hit “Can’t Smile Without You” and seemed to be unaware of the announcement. He continued singing, although he could be barely heard over the repeating announcement. Ironically, Manilow did not perform “I Made It Through the Rain.”

Photo by Everynight Charley

Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, the Killers, Maluma, Elvis Costello, Cynthia Erivo, and Patti Smith were among the performers who were unable to perform. The New York Philharmonic, Andrea Bocelli, Jennifer Hudson, Carlos Santana with Wyclef Jean and Rob Thomas, Julia Michaels & JP Saxe, Kane Brown, Journey, Jon Batiste, Earth, Wind and Fire, Polo G, and a collective of LL Cool J with Rev. Run of Run-DMC, Grandmaster Melle Mel and Scorpio, Busta Rhymes with Spliff Star, A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, French Montana with Fat Joe and Remy Ma, and others had performed before the rain fell.

The masters of ceremony and speakers included television’s Gayle King, Stephen Colbert, Don Lemon, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer. Jimmy Fallon did not get his chance to speak. DJ Cassidy entertained during the set changes and the broadcast’s commercial breaks.

Most attendees received free tickets via an online lottery. The VIP packages cost up to $5,000, however. Refunds have not yet been announced. 

De Blasio had announced the Central Park concert on June 7 as a sign that New York was recovering from the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic. At that time, coronavirus case numbers had plunged and vaccination figures were escalating. Since then, however, the highly contagious Delta variant has become more active. On the day the concert was announced, the New York City was averaging 242 cases a day; the daily average is now more than 2,000 cases a day. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination was required to attend the concert and the non-vaccinated could watch the event on various CNN outlets.

Photo via NYC Mayor’s Office

The We Love NYC: A Homecoming Concert event concluded a week of free concerts celebrating New York’s reopening. In the week leading to the Manhattan event, It’s Time for Hip Hop in NYC consisted of a free concert in each of the four outer boroughs. The concerts started on August 16 in the Bronx, the birthplace of hip-hop. The concert at Orchard Beach featured KRS One, Slick Rick, Remy Ma, Busy Bee, CL Smooth, DJ Hollywood, DJ Jazzy Joyce, DJ Kevie Kev, the Fantastic Five, the Furious 5 featuring Grandmaster Melle Mel and Scorpio, Grand Wizard Theodore, Joeski Love, Kid Capri, Nice & Smooth, PopMaster Fabel, Soul Sonic Force, T La Rock, and the Ultra Magnetic MC’s.

The Staten Island concert at Richmond County Bank Park on August 17 featured Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Crystal Waters, DJ Chuck Chillout, EPMD, the Force MDs, Hakim Green, HeeSun Lee, Kool Keith, Lizzy Ashliegh, Pharoahe Monch, Rikki, and Rob Base. The Brooklyn concert at the Brooklyn Army Terminal on August 19 featured Big Daddy Kane, Busta Rhymes, Desiigner, C&C Music Factory, DJ Mr. Cee, Elle Varner, Judy Torres, Lizzy Ashliegh. Maino, Obasi Jackson, Papoose, PopMaster Fabel, Special Ed, Stetsasonic, Sweet Sensation, and Young Devyn. The Queens concert at Forest Hills Stadium on August 20 featured George Clinton + The P-Funk All Stars, Too $hort, DJ Hurricane, DJ Wiz, EPMD, Mobb Deep, and Yo-Yo.

We Love NYC: A Homecoming Concert

As the Central Park concert began at 5:00 p.m., Gayle King, a co-host of television’s CBS This Morning, welcomed the audience. In her opening comments, she thanked the essential workers for their services during the pandemic months. Echoing the triumphant spirit of the mayor’s intention, she said “We were once the epicenter of this virus, and now we’ve moved to being the epicenter of the recovery. We gather for a common purpose: to say, ‘Welcome back, New York City!'”

The concert opened with the New York Philharmonic performing the overture to Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide,” conducted by Marin Alsop. The orchestra followed with an instrumental suite of popular songs celebrating New York City, including “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do),” “New York State of Mind,” and “Theme from New York, New York.” Richie Cannata, who played saxophone in Billy Joel’s band for decades, joined the orchestra and played the iconic sax lines in “New York State of Mind.”

Backed by the orchestra, Andrea Bocelli sang “O Sole Mio” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Jennifer Hudson sang “Nessun Dorma.” Hudson, who portrayed Aretha Franklin in the film Respect, sang Puccini’s aria, which Franklin notably sang at the 1998 Grammy Awards.

Photo by Everynight Charley

Carlos Santana was joined by Wyclef Jean, Prodigy, and Rob Thomas, Julia Michaels and JP Saxe sang a duet, and Kane Brown and Journey performed two songs. The hip-hop artists then performed a medley of hits. Jon Batiste performed, Earth Wind & Fire teamed with Babyface and Lucky Daye, and Polo G performed one song. Two-and-a-half hours into a five-hour show, Barry Manilow was forced to stop midway through his set.

The weather predictions were that Hurricane Henri, a Category 1 storm, would reach New York on Sunday and primarily in eastern Long Island. Concert attendees felt initial raindrops about 7:30 p.m. At that time, an off-stage announcer suggested that those who carried ponchos might want to have them ready for use. A few minutes later, the announcer interrupted Manilow’s set, advising the audience that “Due to approaching severe weather, all persons should move quickly and calmly to the nearest exit and proceed to your vehicles and protected areas outside of the festival site.”

As the audience was leaving, de Blasio came to the stage wearing a poncho. “We need everyone for a brief period of time to move to some place safe because of thunder and lightning, and then we will bring the concert back,” he said. Weather conditions grew worse, however, and the concert was officially cancelled at 10:30 p.m.

Photo by Everynight Charley

Setlists

New York Philharmonic

  1. Overture to Candide (Leonard Bernstein cover)
  2. Rhapsody in Blue (George Gershwin cover)
  3. New York, New York (On the Town) (Leonard Bernstein cover)
  4. Manhattan (Lorenz Hart cover)
  5. Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do) (Christopher Cross cover)
  6. New York State of Mind (Billy Joel cover)
  7. Theme From New York, New York (John Kander cover)
  8. Rhapsody in Blue (George Gershwin cover) (Reprise) 

Andrea Bocelli 

  1. You’ll Never Walk Alone (Rodgers & Hammerstein cover) (with New York Philharmonic)
  2. ‘O sole mio (Eduardo Di Capua cover, with New York Philharmonic)

Jennifer Hudson

  1. Nessun Dorma (Giacomo Puccini cover, with New York Philharmonic)
Photo by Everynight Charley

Carlos Santana 

  1. Maria Maria (Santana song, with Wyclef Jean)
  2. Move (Santana song, with Rob Thomas and Zac Barnett)
  3. Smooth (Santana song, with Rob Thomas and Zac Barnett)

JP Saxe & Julia Michaels

  1. If the World Was Ending

Kane Brown 

  1. Homesick
  2. Be Like That

Journey

  1. Any Way You Want It
  2. Don’t Stop Believin’

Grandmaster Melle Mel & Scorpio

  1. The Message (Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five song)

Busta Rhymes & Spliff Star

  1. Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See

A Boogie Wit da Hoodie

  1. Look Back at It

French Montana, Fat Joe & Remy Ma

  1. All the Way Up (Fat Joe & Remy Ma cover)
  2. Lean Back (Terror Squad cover)

LL Cool J

  1. Mama Said Knock You Out
  2. It’s Tricky (Run‐D.M.C. cover) (with Rev. Run)
  3. Rock the Bells (Snippet, with the all the hip-hop artists)

Jon Batiste 

  1. Freedom

Earth, Wind & Fire

  1. You Want My Love (with Babyface and Lucky Daye)
  2. September (with Lucky Daye and Babyface)

Polo G 

  1. Rapstar 

Barry Manilow

  1. Copacabana
  2. Mandy (Scott English cover)
  3. Can’t Smile Without You (partial)

FULL ARTICLE AND PHOTOS BY EVERYNIGHT CHARLEY CAN BE FOUND HERE!

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