Last month I was lucky enough to grab a ticket to Global Citizen Festival in Manhattan. By the time I got there, 20 minutes after the gates opened, the line was already nine blocks deep. And that was before the mile and a half stretch inside Central Park itself. Nearly 70,000 people were lined in the streets of New York to see rock legend Metallica, EDM idol Major Lazer, pop sensation Demi Lovato, rap mogul Kendrick Lamar and superstar Rihanna. Among the headliners, Chris Martin, Eddie Vedder, Usher, Ellie Goulding, Yandel, Yusuf and Cat Stevens also performed.
Weren’t there? Didn’t catch the live stream? We’ve got your back — here are the highlights:
EDM Goes Blonde: Ellie Goulding & Major Lazer
Major Lazer, made up of Diplo, Walshy Fire, and Jillionaire, asked their “special guest” to step out and perform with them. Out came Ellie Goulding with her kick-ass leather mini skirt and sensual moves, the crowd bobbing their heads to match the swaying of her hips. Though an EDM performance is not typically paired with daytime, the earliness of the show did not hinder the energy. When the beat dropped, the crowd dropped. And subsequently, when they announced that this was their first live rendition of “Powerful,” jaws dropped (yes, it was that good).
When Coldplay Meets Pearl Jam: Chris Martin and Eddie Vedder
My heart broke a little when I realized Chris Martin was not scheduled to perform and rather just host. A firm believer that Coldplay is the harmonious bridge connecting alternative rock and pop piano, you could imagine my excitement to see Martin step out with a guitar alongside THE Eddie Vedder. And though their performance was amazing, the highlight was when Vedder brought politics to the stage. Without pointing his finger at a specific candidate, Vedder asserted, “When you see certain political candidates, you see an uprising of racism, of homophobia, of sexism raising their ugly, moldy, rusty heads, it’s a sign, and it’s a good sign. It means this is one last grasp.” He continued, “These ideas are being held in a skeleton hand, and there’s no longer room for them in this modern world of communication, acceptance, and understanding of others.” Basically, he rapped “Fuck Donald Trump Pt. 2,” with eloquence.
40 Years in the Making: Yusuf
Whether you know him as Yusuf or Cat Stevens, everyone can learn something from him. At Global Citizen, Yusuf asked the crowd to fall in love again through friendships and accepting the people around you. He promoted the idea of peace and how, in such a big world, there is enough to go around. Concluding with “Peace Train,” Yusuf brought the Woodstock vibe every festival-goer craves – music and equanimity.
Crossing Borders: Yandal
Yandal was an unexpected surprise. Since most of his music is in Spanish, his performance evaporated borders and really added to the sense of globality. It’s true when people say good music can be a universal language. I can’t say I went to Global Citizen to hear “Encantadora,” but I sure as hell saved it on Spotify the moment I got wifi.
More and More: Metallica
I wouldn’t say heavy metal is my cup of tea but I still appreciated the fact that I was in the midst of legends. This performance was another one that would probably be more fitting for post-sunset. However, they didn’t fail to make me want to stick my tongue out, pump my fist in the air, and scream at authority. Their insane riffs and oneness with electric guitars established a similar phenomena to EDM raves — even if you don’t rock with the words, you roll with the music.
Rally: Kendrick Lamar
If you were given the choice to see only one rapper for the rest of your life, please choose Kendrick Lamar. He not only gives a good show, but he also rallies his audience with powerful lyrics and interludes on social justice. Kendrick Lamar was so fitting as a performer for Global Citizen because — and it’s no secret — he is extremely passionate about civil rights, human necessities and equal treatment.
Ending each song with “make some noise for yourself,” there was a raw appreciation between the crowd and Lamar — something that was so real, it was almost mystic.
He covered all his hits “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe,” “King Kunta” and “Alright.” He rallied the crowd during “i,” and, anybody present would have agreed with me, Central Park shook.
Bad Girl Riri to Social Advocate: Rihanna
Only one person can get away with wearing orange sunglasses and overalls (and absolutely rock it) at 10 p.m. — Rihanna.
If you jammed to Pon De Replay back in 2005, you’d appreciate that it was around that time Rihanna founded the Believe Foundation to aid child development. In 2012, she also founded the Clara Lionel Foundation for education.
She kicked off the night with “Stay,” a song that was greeted with excitement and tears. After her moving performance, her jacket came off and she continued with hits from “Birthday Cake” to “Bitch Better Have My Money” and “Work” to my personal favorite, “Needed It.” And when she said, “help your girl sing” to her favorite song on the ANTI album, “Love on the Brain,” the crowd happily obliged.
And if you are anything like me, you would consider Bill Nye partially hosting the show a highlight as well. When asked why he was in attendance, he stated “I’m trying to save the world here, people,” and continued with, “this is advocacy day!”
There was no shortage of people, no shortage of power. There were surges of hope, empowerment, and optimism. But, consistently, there was an aura of expectation. We were there, expected to care about the issues presented, expected to take action, and expected to be a long-lasting part of the Global Citizen community. Yes, some people did do the tasks just to win tickets but I’d like to think there were people there who genuinely wanted to see the change and be an active part of it. And those who came with the intention to just listen to the music left with something additional, a little more awareness than they came in with.
From Yandel, a man who was exiled, to Demi Lovato, a woman who shaped the younger generations by being confident in her shape; legends like Metallica to still rising stars such as Ellie Goulding; Neil Patrick Harris to Priyanka Chopra — the Global Citizen Festival was a hub for music lovers and social advocates alike. The Global Citizen Team could not have said it any better:
“Global Citizen is more than just a concert. It’s a movement of activists, artists, and Global Citizens like you, working together to end extreme poverty in our lifetime. The festival underscored the power Global Citizens have to make the world a better place. Together, we must continue to work for a world where everyone can survive and thrive.”
And with that in mind, maybe you will go on the Global Citizen website or app to sign a petition, call a foreign leader, or tweet something in the fight for social justice. Not for points, not for a ticket to a music festival, but just because it’s something worth doing.
Learn more. Take action. Join the movement: https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/