Alicia Keys, John Mayer and Kings of Leon round out the bill for Poverty Task benefit
Stevie Wonder was quite the tease during his headlining set from Saturday’s Global Citizen Festival in New York’s Central Park. Right after future-soul chanteuse Janelle Monáe belted one of the verses from “Higher Ground, ” he made a panicked face behind his signature shades and cried, “Hold on! Can be the next song? I don’t also know, ” even though neither he or she nor his sprawling backing music group missed a beat getting into the horns of “Sir Duke. inch Later, they surprise-ended a slinky, funkified version of the Beatles’ “Daytripper, ” leaving the audience performing along to the last few words by themselves. “That’s it! ” he or she said. “You want some more? inch Wonder needed only to drop one of the descending sitar chords that open “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” before the 60, 000-strong crowd – their amounts swelled by an estimated additional fifteen million live-streaming the concert on the internet – roared their approval, holding loved ones and swaying hands up.
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Wonder, a longtime activist and a United Nations Messenger for Peace – or “Ambassador for Peace of These United Nations to Get Its Groove On, ” as Bono mentioned in his introduction to the legendary vocalist – is an ideal candidate for your Global Poverty Project’s second annual Global Citizen Festival, an event focused on raising awareness about worldwide problems like extreme poverty, education inequality, and environmental sustainability. Last year’s inaugural festival raised over a billion dollars dollars to fight poverty. Wonder was joined by a like-minded, all-star lineup including Kings of Leon, Alicia Keys, and John Mayer, with brief sets by Monae, Elvis Costello and R& M crooner Maxwell, who announced mid-guest-vocals on “Superstition, ” “I aren’t believe this is happening! ” Celebs including Olivia Wilde, Gerard Retainer, and Katie Holmes also briefly appeared onstage to introduce the artists and speakers.
The clear skies and warm temperature could not have been more perfect. “I’m blind up here, but you guys look like a nice masses from what I can see, ” mentioned Kings of Leon singer Caleb Followill, squinting in the bright sunshine. Like a Southern gentleman, he apologized for the “sloppiness” of “Beautiful War, ” a slow-burner off the Nashville outfit’s forthcoming album, Mechanical Bull , that they had not played live before. On the contrary, whether running through new material like the jangly melodies of Bull and set opener “Supersoaker” or fan favorites “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody, ” they nailed it. Next up was Elvis Costello, who had a slightly different take on the view from the phase. “You all look so attractive, I’m going to play you half a classic song and half a new one particular, ” he said, leading in to a solo electric guitar-driven version of “Tripwire” off Sensible Up Ghost , his lately released collaborative album with the Origins, before revisiting his ’70s traditional “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding. ”
Following a series of delivering presentations between sets on the importance of sex equality, Alicia Keys provided a welcome dose of female empowerment, especially while singing “Girl upon Fire” with a posse of man dancers behind her and the flame-colored setting sun reflected in her baby grand. Jay Z did not, as some had hoped, show up meant for “Empire State of Mind Pt. II, inch but Keys made up for it having a sassy, sultry rendition of her breakthrough single “Fallin’, ” which usually celebrated its 10th anniversary two years ago and still sounds as classic as ever.
John Mayer, who seemed much more comfortable with a guitar between him and his audience – “I fear in order to ask, ” he said inside a stilted clip, “are you having a good time? ” – also dusted away from some older material in the form of “Waiting on the World to Change” from 2006’s Continuum . Mayer has previously acknowledged the song’s debt to Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield, so this period he covered Gaye’s “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)” in the middle of the song. But it was another cover, a rangy yet muscular interpretation of the Grateful Dead’s “Going Down the Road, Feeling Bad, inch that was the highlight of their set.
Wonder may have been feeling more loose using the audience than Mayer, but following a spirited finale to Innervisions ‘ “Living in the City, ” things got serious. “Someone who is very dear to us and a part of this family would be here today were it not for a gun, ” he mentioned. “We must do something about the gun control laws in this country. inch A couple “John Lennon” murmurs distributed, but it wasn’t until after Wonder played the first notes of “Imagine” that he said Lennon’s name aloud. (Later in the song, he also available a way to slip in some more Marvin Gaye, this time a line from “What’s Goin’ On. “) Whether or not because of the song’s message, the closeness of Strawberry Fields, or the easy emotional tenor of Wonder’s tone of voice, it was an undoubtedly emotional moment. But the singer would let no one, least of all himself, derail the festival’s positive vibes. There’s nothing such as the slinky funk of “Superstition” being a distraction, especially when he encouraged the audience to sing along in order to new lyrics: “We are global citizens/ We’re going to change the world! inch