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Summer bummer: We Love NYC concert in the Great Lawn washed out

It was an emotional experience.
Photo by Dean Moses

The We Love NYC concert was rocking New York on Saturday night, but then the thunder and lightning rolled in. 

As the Big Apple planned to showcase its victory rising from the COVID-19 ashes with a star-studded concert on Aug. 21, a deluge of rain and lightning on the night before the city was to get a glancing blow from Hurricane Henri washed out the celebration in Central Park’s Great Lawn. 

Commencing in the sticky August heat, hundreds of revelers poured into the iconic park to experience the NYC Homecoming Concert, the latest in-person event designed to move the COVID-19 vaccine.

 

New York Philharmonic conductor, Marin Alsop. Photo by Dean Moses
Accompanied by the NY Philharmonic, Jennifer Hudson vows the crowd with her performance of Nessun Dorma at the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert.” photo by Gabriele Holtermann
Hundreds threw their hands in the air and were ready to dance the night away despite the impending storm. Photo by Dean Moses

With a drought of entertainment events for almost two years due to the deadly virus and a laundry list of renowned celebrities dangling like carrots on a hook, this free music mecca was perhaps the greatest incentive for those on the fence to receive the life-saving jab since only those showcasing proof of inoculation could attend (children under 12 needed to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test).

The evening begins with excitement 

Approximately 80% of the tickets were free to everyday New Yorkers, while VIP badges sold from $399 to $4,950 promising front row seats, an open bar, and more.

Andrea Boccelli performs for the crowd attending the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” on the Great Lawn in Central Park. photo by Gabriele Holtermann
One woman began to cry as Italian tenor, Andrea Bocelli sang. Photo by Dean Moses

“We found out through a group of friends, and we all decided to come together, and it’s amazing,” said Juan Luis, who has been vaccinated since February. “This is very exciting. We waited about two hours and we are right in front. We are looking forward to seeing Bruce Springsteen, The Killers, and I’m excited that we are going to have a Latin artist, Maluma, so we are very excited with the amazing lineup.”

Jon Batiste sang, “Freedom.” Photo by Dean Moses
One woman dropped to the ground from heat exhaustion as her friends poured water on her to cool off. Photo by Dean Moses

Mayor Bill de Blasio touted that the Saturday extravaganza would be a historic concert thanking all who have been vaccinated. Teaming up with legendary producer Clive Davis, the stage was set to feature live performances on the Great Lawn from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; however, Henri had other plans shutting down the extravaganza by 8 p.m.. 

Prior to the storm putting a damper on the outdoor event, renowned artists stepped onto the stage to say that New York is alive and well. 

The pumping beats reverberated throughout the crowd, where individuals jumped, danced, screamed with joy, and even tossed beach balls amongst each other—it was set to be a night to remember.

Guitar legend Carlos Santana performs for the crowd attending the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” on the Great Lawn in Central Park. photo by Gabriele Holtermann
Rob Thomas and Santana rocked the stage with “Move” and “Smooth.” Photo by Dean Moses
Julia Michaels and JP Saxe. Photo by Dean Moses

“Overnight it seemed our hospitals filled, our streets empty. The sound of a city that had always crackled with life was replaced by sirens where New Yorkers were carried to overcrowded hospitals, where beds were scarce. Thankfully courage and professionalism were not,” said CBS morning show host Gayle King, describing the efforts made by frontline workers. 

The first set of musical renditions included the New York Philharmonic accompanied by Andrea Bocelli and Jennifer Hudson, whose performances invoked an awe and joy from listeners as they held each other.  This event was the final of five taking place in each of the boroughs.

 

Thousands attended the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” on the Great Lawn in Central Park. photo by Gabriele Holtermann
Hip Hop legend LL Cool J performs for the crowd attending the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” on the Great Lawn in Central Park. photo by Gabriele Holtermann
After 17 months without being able to attend concerts, attendees became emotional. Photo by Dean Moses

“New York City fought our way back from COVID because of our essential workers. Everybody, 75% of all New Yorkers are vaccinated now. Amazing,” de Blasio exclaimed on stage alongside First Lady, Chirlane McCray.

The Storm cometh 

After about two hours and 30 minutes of rocking performances from Carlos Santana, LL Cool J, Earth Wind and Fire, and so many more the concert came to a screeching halt during Barry Manilow’s rendition, “I can’t smile without you” when news of lightning over Battery Park struck. 

Through overhead speakers, attendees were unceremoniously advised to immediately find shelter due to the oncoming thunderstorm. A scramble ensued as some simply stood in ponchos bemused while others clambered to avoid the deluge.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray address the crowd at the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” on the Great Lawn in Central Park. photo by Gabriele Holtermann
New Yorkers enjoy the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” on the Great Lawn in Central Park. photo by Gabriele Holtermann
Legend Barry Manilow gets a few tunes in before a storm halted the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert on the Great Lawn in Central Park. photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Sending mixed messages, Mayor Bill de Blasio rushed on a now darkened stage, announcing that while individuals should seek shelter, he also begged for the crowd to return once the storm subsided. This announcement coupled with warnings for folks to leave caused mass confusion, until finally, everyone was commanded to exit the park and find shelter elsewhere.

Concert goers were caught up in the confusion on whether to go home or stay in the area for the concert to resume. Photo by Dean Moses

For those rushing home, commuters were herded by NYPD officers who blocked the subway entrances—to prevent overcrowding—until another train arrived. 

Police blocked off subway entrances to prevent overcrowding within the 77th Street Downtown 6 subway station. Photo by Dean Moses

With over two hours passing some spectators heeded the mayor’s pleas and returned to see the concert through, although the stage has yet to host the rest of the show with the likes of Bruce Springsteen and The Killers.

The rain did not dampen these attendees experience. Photo by Dean Moses
Some donned ponchos in preparation of the rainfall. Photo by Dean Moses

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