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Neil Young, Foo Fighters, Black Keys and more Rock Global Fest

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

Over 60,000 gathered at the Great Lawn in Central Park for a cause and for great tunes.

Neil Young, Foo Fighters, Black Keys and more Rock Global Fest

While the numbers say that over 60,000 people gathered in Central Park's Great Lawn for the Global Festival on Saturday, it felt like there were over 100,000 people easy.  Men, women and children of all ages came together and stretched from the front near the stage all the way to the back, and it was a tight squeeze for most of the proceedings.  While the sun wasn't shining down, the weather conditions were perfect on the early fall day, and everyone in attendance was treated to some amazing musical performances and important humanitarian causes.

The concert began with K'naan and Band of Horses playing abbreviated sets (almost like openers) as the crowd began to grow bigger and bigger.  In between performances (and right at the beginning), celebrities and Global Citizen members gave testimonials about global poverty and how everyone is and can be a global citizen, doing things for the greater good.  Everyone in the crowd was enlisted to participate in actions like tweeting at presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney about their policy plans to end global poverty.  Videos were shown and global citizenship awards were handed out.  

The sentiment and overarching theme of the event were important and powerful, but impatient music fans don't usually make up the best audience for speeches like these.  They were often met with cynicism from many in the crowd, chanting for the next act or just not bothering to listen, even if Hugh Jackman, Olivia Wilde, and Selena Gomez were the ones talking on stage.

One of the nicer surprises of the evening came when John Legend stopped in to play "Imagine."  Legend spoke briefly during his brief piano interlude, then launched into his performance.  It was breathtaking.  Legend added his soul to the song, and I almost felt privileged to have heard him perform it.  It felt like such a beautiful moment, and everyone quieted down so they could hear.

Musically, the concert didn't disappoint.  The Black Keys ripped through their set, barely taking any time between songs in an effort to get as many in as possible.  Dave Grohl  and the Foo Fighters delighted the crowd with his banter and with the infectiousness of the set.  The Foo Fighters kick some serious ass live, and Grohl couldn't have been more appreciative of the audience.  At one point, a large clap during a slow part of "The Best of You" started.  Grohl was taken back by it, telling us, "Oh wow.  You have no idea how f**king beautiful that looks from up here."  It looked pretty beautiful from within the crowd, and the feeling of 60,000 people clapping to the beat sent chills down my spine.  

They ended with a frenzied version of "Everlong" before handing things over to Neil Young and Crazy Horse.  Young and his band just released a new album, Psychedelic Pill, and although there are only 9 songs, it's long enough to have been split up into two discs.  The first single, "Walk Like a Giant," clocks in at 16:27, so we all knew what was in store.  Young still sounds practically the same after all these years and still delivers ferocious guitar solos, though they did tend to drag on after a while.  He did play some of his own songs, but for the most part stuck to new material.

Only at the end did the real fireworks start, which unfortunately I did not witness.  As my friend and I left the show, we heard "Rockin' in the Free World," which we figured he would save for last.  We both wondered before his performance whether the Foos or Black Keys would join him on stage at some point for some epic conclusion, but we didn't stick around to find out.  Turns out they did.  Grohl and Dan Auerbach, K'naan and Band of Horses all came out to jam/sing with Young and the band on that final song for a once-in-a-lifetime performance that I happened to miss.  Fortunately, there is video of it, and it is righteous:

It felt like the event (and Global Citizen's goals for activation and participation) was a success, and I'm sure everyone there felt a special vibe.  I was at Mumford & Son's in Hoboken, where 15,000 people were crammed into Pier A.  The vast number of people in attendance, all on the same wave length (for the most part; some older women snapped at younger women and I did see someone get chased down by security early on) made it feel special.  The artists savored being up on that stage, and playing "with us, not for us" as Grohl put it.

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