The Global Citizen Festival in New York City on Saturday (September 29) was an event with a stated goal to, according to its website, “Celebrate the progress made in fighting extreme poverty, secure financial commitments for tackling extreme poverty and disease, and mobilise thousands of ambassadors for change.” The concert featured presentations from a diverse group of organizations dedicated to fighting worldwide poverty, disease and hunger, including UNICEF, The End Of Polio, Malaria No More and Live Below The Line. But festival headliner Neill Young made sure that this wasn’t your average televised money and awareness raising concert (even though it aired on a variety of online and television channels): when he and Crazy Horse played “F***in’ Up,” it took the event straight into PG-13 (or R) territory.
However, it didn’t seem to change the mood of the day, which was mostly positive and optimistic; the event put a lot of time and effort into bringing attention to the issue of world poverty and the myriad of problems associated with it, and to giving the aforementioned organizations (and many others, see a list of them here) plenty of time to explain their respective missions.
Kicking off after 5 pm ET with brief sets by Somali/Canadian rapper K’Naan and Seattle roots rockers Band Of Horses, R&B superstar John Legend took to the stage for an unannounced performance of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Legend was a guest speaker later in the day; other speakers discussing issues and causes around global poverty included economist Jeffrey Sachs, Good Wife co-star Archie Panjabi and Tron:Legacy co-star Olivia Wilde.
After that, blues rock superstars The Black Keys took to the stage for a 45 minute set which took “less talk, more rock” to heart. Frontman Dan Auerbach didn’t address the audience often… and they didn’t seem to mind. The crowd, estimated at 60,000, danced as the the Keys blasted through their most well known songs “Howlin’ For You,” “Next Girl,” “Little Black Submarines,” “Tighten Up,” “Gold On The Ceiling,” “Lonely Boy” and “I Got Mine.”
(photo credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images)
Over the past decade, the Foo Fighters has been one of America’s most consistent groups, cranking out album after album with multiple hit songs (and videos) and selling out arenas regularly. It was no surprise when the audience erupted when frontman Dave Grohl hit the stage to perform a solo “Times Like These” (joined mid-song by the rest of the band). It was, however, a bit of a surprise when he said from the stage, ”Without making a big deal out of it, we don’t have any shows after this… honestly, I don’t know when we’re gonna do it again.” He didn’t speak too much though, noting that “I’d rather see Neil Young!” The Foo Fighters barreled through classics including “All My Life” “My Hero,” “Learn To Fly,” “Best Of You” and “Everlong” along with songs from their multi-Grammy winning latest effort, Wasting Light, “Arlandria,” “These Days” and “Walk.”
Neil Young and recently reactivated band Crazy Horse did not disappoint… if you knew what to expect. Which is to say, Young performed the songs that he wanted to perform; the man never allows himself to be tethered to his hit singles. Playing a completely different set than last week’s Farm Aid performance, he opened with “Love and Only Love” from 1990’s Ragged Glory (at Farm Aid, he opened with “Country Home” from that same album; both songs clock in at around 10 minutes). Following with a classic album track from 1979’s Rust Never Sleeps, “Powderfinger,” he then played a “Walk Like A Giant” and “Born In Ontario” from his upcoming album, Psychedelic Pill, due out next month. Crazy Horse left the stage and Neil strapped on his acoustic guitar for the classic “The Needle And The Damage Done” and another new song, “Twisted Road,” in which Young recalls the seismic impact that Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and The Grateful Dead had on him.
Crazy Horse returned to the stage for the distortion heavy (and expletive-heavy) “F***in’ Up” (another number from Ragged Glory). After that, Young announced “we’re all going to join forces,” and he was joined by Dave Grohl and Dan Auerbach for raucous four-guitar strong “Rockin’ In The Free World” (the other members of the Foo Fighters, as well as Band Of Horses and K’Naan also joined in, contributing backing vocals).
It’s noteworthy that the Foo Fighters all seemed to have a great time together, and if any of the members are worried that they won’t work with their frontman anymore, they should look no further than Crazy Horse, who have been dropped and picked up by Young a number of times over the past four decades, and as they showed last night, they are as powerful as ever.
To learn more about global poverty, the many issues that surround it, and the organizations fighting it, go to Global Citizen’s website.
— Brian Ives, CBS Local