Sunday, September 30, 2012

Global Festival Setlists, Photos, & Review

On Saturday, 60,000 global citizens in Central Park (and many more watching the largest webcast in history) experienced Global Festival, a concert to raise awareness and end extreme poverty.  I read some statistics, watched some videos, signed some petitions, and was fortunate enough to receive tickets to the show for my efforts.

I met my friends at 72nd St and Central Park West around 3:30, and we made our way down the half-mile-long chute to get onto the Great Lawn.  Divided into six pens, we were corralled into the front of Pen 3 (left side, middle).  It was the furthest back I've ever been for a concert, but seeing how far the crowd went behind us at the end of the night, we had a great spot.

A gigantic stage with a large circular screen framed by a proscenium of the Global Poverty Project's red O logo, sat imposingly at the north end of the lawn.  I went to grab food before it got too crowded, so I missed most of Katie Couric's greeting, but I did make it back in time to see BeyoncĂ©'s music video for "I Was Here."  Which is a relief, considering it was the biggest waste of time of the night.  Not only had I seen it at work before, but why was I watching a fucking music video when the opening act only got to play for 15 minutes?!?

Somali-Canadian rapper K'naan kicked things off with "In the Beginning," banging on a drum in front of him as he shouted the lyrics.  He then played new song "The Seed," which traced his origins to a refugee camp in Africa.  His worldwide hit "Wavin' Flag" was an obvious choice for his final number, but in an effort to "reclaim that song as a personal song," he added an opening verse, sans instruments, about moving to Harlem in the '90s and having problems with the INS.
Band of Horses opened with new single "Knock Knock" and transitioned into "The Great Salt Lake."  Ben Bridwell stomped his foot before singing the title lyrics each time, which reverberated off the wooden stageof House of Vans nicely, but went unheard in the huge open space of the park.  Introducing the next song, Ben said, "We have to play our best songs even if they're really sensitive.  Here comes a sensitive song."  As the chiming guitar of "No One's Gonna Love You" came in, my body was overtaken by euphoria (as usual).  Before their last song "The Funeral," the ever-gracious Bridwell said with a big grin on his face, "Man, this is such a great event.  I can't get over it.  We get to play with our heroes.  We get to play the Lawn.  This is just so incredible.  Even if you don't know who we are, I just wanna say thank you so much for listening and having us, really." 
Video pieces from countries around the globe, highlighting individuals who have made personal goals to eradicate polio, malaria, and other diseases, were introduced by a cavalcade of supermodels urging us to take action by tweeting (We really are the laziest country.).  After hearing the shocking statistic on global infant mortality ("While you're here at this incredible concert tonight, 4000 babies will die."), I was curious as to how much awareness without action really matters.  Does being a "global citizen" really just entail having a smartphone and sharing these facts on Facebook?  Why wasn't anyone collecting donations?  Did anyone else there actually watch the videos online, or just sign petitions unknowingly because they'd get to see Foo Fighters?

Surprise guest John Legend appeared at a piano stage left and said, "You might have heard this song before.  It was written by a guy named John Lennon."  He led the crowd in a singalong of "Imagine" and was gone just as quickly as he'd arrived.

Worried that they'd just do the same setlist as they did when I saw them at Catalpa (and that they've been playing for a year now), I was pleasantly surprised to hear the Black Keys perform "She's Long Gone," which has normally been reserved for encores.  The appearance of "Gold on the Ceiling" later in the set, where it belongs, was also a nice change. The biggest Patrick Carney flub occurred during the second part of "Little Black Submarines," where he couldn't keep cadence.  In contrast, Dan Auerbach mastered his guitar solo on "Tighten Up" for one of their best performances.  Having played with their band for the whole set, they finished as a duo with "I Got Mine."

The crowd reached critical mass before Foo Fighters.  It was probably the wrong time to bring out UNICEF ambassador Selena Gomez to speak on eliminating the number of preventable deaths of children.  People around me started booing her for being a better person than they will ever be.  Audience members talked over the presenters throughout the evening, however, proving that the organizers should have cranked up the audio on the activists so more would pay attention to what this was really about.
Just before 7:30, Dave Grohl took the stage alone in front of an illuminated Foo Fighters logo on the back screen.  "I'm not playing for you; I'm playing with you tonight," he announced to the army of fans, and began strumming the opening chords of "Times Like These."  The band made their way onto the stage halfway through the song to finish it out with him, and then amped it up with the balls-to-the-wall "All My Life," igniting a mosh pit nearby.  They segued into "My Hero," which had the whole crowd singing its triumphant chorus.  Grohl admitted, "I wish we could play all night, you know what I mean?"  Cheers.  "But I'd rather see Neil Young," he laughed maniacally.  He went on to explain that they didn't know when they'd be performing next, and decided this would be the perfect last show until then.  They followed "Learn to Fly" with three songs from Wasting Light and a so-so "Best of You."  "I don't know when we'll see ya, but we'll see ya around," Dave remarked before they launched into their normal closer "Everlong." 
The crowd thinned a little after Foo Fighters, but those who left missed the highlight of the evening.  Topping their set from last week's Farm Aid, Neil Young and Crazy Horse played a blistering mix of new songs from the upcoming Psychedelic Pill, and classics like the 15-minute opener "Love & Only Love."  Young, Poncho, and Billy Talbot huddled together in the center of the stage, churning out waves of distortion into the crisp night air.  Before playing new tune "Born in Ontario," Young reminisced about the first time he came to NYC for an audition: "This is a great place… even though I didn't get it."  The band showed off their whistling skills on "Walk Like a Giant," the 18-minute song culminating in a series of noisy strikes led by drummer Ralph Molina, that simulated the crashing footsteps of a giant.  Crazy Horse left the stage for Neil to perform a pair of acoustic tunes, the quintessential anti-heroin song, "The Needle & the Damage Done" and the new "Twisted Road."  "Road" recalls what it's like to listen to the music of your idols, and it's even sweeter when you realize that Dylan and the Dead aren't just Neil's idols, but his peers.  Crazy Horse returned to the stage for "Fuckin' Up," and the whole night came to its finale with "Rockin' in the Free World," where Dan Auerbach, K'naan, Foo Fighters, and Band of Horses all got in on the action.  After a cacophony of guitars soloed at the same time, just when everyone thought the song was over, Neil whipped his finger around like a lasso to signal everyone for another round of the chorus.  Here's to rockin' in a world free of preventable diseases and full of free concerts.

K’NAAN – 09.29.12 – CENTRAL PARK, GLOBAL FESTIVAL (15 minutes)

In the Beginning / The Seed / Wavin’ Flag


Knock Knock > The Great Salt Lake / No One’s Gonna Love You / The Funeral




Howlin’ for You / Next Girl / Run Right Back / Same Old Thing / Dead & Gone / Little Black Submarines / Money Maker / Strange Times / Nova Baby / She’s Long Gone > Tighten Up / Gold on the Ceiling / Lonely Boy / I Got Mine


Times Like These / All My Life > My Hero / Learn to Fly > Arlandria / These Days > Walk / Best of You / Everlong

NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE – 09.29.12 – CENTRAL PARK, GLOBAL FESTIVAL (1 hour, 10 minutes)

Love & Only Love / Powderfinger / Born in Ontario / Walk Like a Giant / The Needle & the Damage Done / Twisted Road / Fuckin’ Up / Rockin’ in the Free World 

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