Global Citizen Fest Unites New Yorkers Through Music and Activism

By Brandi Powell, Contributing Writer

A magical lineup lit up Central Park’s Great Lawn on Saturday night, courtesy of Global Citizen’s annual festival. For six years, Global Citizen has given out free tickets to their festival in exchange for “actions” taken by users of their app. The actions include calling on UN members for expanding women’s education and calling Senators to oppose destructive bills.

The festival opened with young pop star Alessia Cara, whose hit “Here” instantly energized the crowd. In between sets, political leaders and celebrities such as Mark Cuban, Demi Lovato, and Lupita Nyong’o gave empowering speeches encouraging the crowd to continue being activities in both the local circuits and the world.

The next act was Detroit rapper Big Sean, who began with “Lights”, a single from his newest album “I Decided”. His hit “Bounce Back” closed his performance and the crowd morphed into a full machine. The next set saw a much different genre take the stage, as the Las Vegas legends known as The Killers took the stage. Their opener was the millennial anthem, “Mr. Brightside”. It was near impossible to find a face in the crowd that wasn’t singing along passionately. The band kept their set list close to their most popular album Hot Fuss, but added in the cult-classic “When You Were Young” to end the set on an energetic note.

The Lumineers were next, adding a soft indie touch to the varied festival. Lead singer Wesley Schultz stunned the crowd with his raw vocal performance. The band surprisingly launched into a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s legendary “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” as photographs of hurricane Irma’s destruction were displayed on the screen behind them.

The night’s most gut-wrenching performance came from Andra Day, whose extremely powerful vocals and genuine passion pierced the crowd. During her Billie Holiday cover of “Strange Fruit”, the screen behind her displayed powerful memorials for those lynched in America. She also nailed a cover of Queen’s “I Want It All” as a closer. New York natives The Chainsmokers could not live up to the preceding artist in talent, but their long list of radio hits drew the crowd to their feet.

Punk rock trio and long-time activists Green Day quickly left The Chainsmoker’s forgettable performance in the dust as they began with their angry hit “Know Your Enemy”. Mixing in old and new hits, the band did not forget the occasion, and brought out the rarely-played “Wake Me Up When September Ends”. The crowd turned somber, waving lighters across the sky. Their set ended on a more optimistic note with a hit off their 1997 album Nimrod entitled “Good Riddance”.

The night was long from over, as the legendary artist Stevie Wonder took to the stage. He wrote his hit, “Isn’t She Lovely,” for his daughter, who came on stage during its performance. Guest star Pharrell Williams was brought out and the duo performed a slew of hits together, ranging from Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” to Pharrell’s “Happy”. Stevie’s covers of “Imagine” and “We Are the World” sent the crowd to tears as the audience reflected on the event’s commitment to spreading peace.

Most moving, perhaps, was Stevie’s decision to take a knee and pray for the state of the world. In light of the President’s recent comments against Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protest, the crowd burst into applause. His set was a perfect end to a night full of diversity, both in artists and in audience, all coming together to raise awareness for those less fortunate.

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