New York hosts star-studded Homecoming Concert, but weather throws a wrench

New York, New York - Music stars and thousands of New Yorkers partied like it was 2019 in Central Park on Saturday, hitting a hopeful note late in the second summer of Covid-19.

Carlos Santana and friends and Rob Thomas performing on stage during the NYC Homecoming concert.
Carlos Santana and friends and Rob Thomas performing on stage during the NYC Homecoming concert.  © IMAGO / TheNews2

Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Jennifer Hudson were the scheduled headliners among a host of acts set to storm a stage in the park’s Great Lawn for the culmination of Homecoming Week's super concert, meant to herald the return of New York City, even as Hurricane Henri set its sights on the Northeast.

Throngs of vaccinated music fans – some masked, most not – filled into the 55-acre field long before the first act. Concert staff asked for proof of shots at the gates.

Many concertgoers draped beach towels over the grass on a sticky, hot evening in Manhattan. They scouted out spots in the shadow of a stage and light display that screamed "NYC" in imposing lettering.

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Brooklyn-raised music mogul Clive Davis booked the show’s star-studded lineup, a list that also included opera tenor Andrea Bocelli, rapper LL Cool J, and guitar genius Carlos Santana.

Bocelli, one of the first acts, sang You’ll Never Walk Alone, a show tune that became a pandemic anthem, with its optimistic encouragements for the lonely. "We crossed a terrible storm this year," Bocelli told the crowd.

Not long after, Santana performed a boisterous rendition of Maria Maria as New Yorkers swayed.

Also on the bill were Brooklyn-born balladeer Barry Manilow, punk powerhouse Patti Smith, and hip-hop star Wyclef Jean.

Davis (89) said ahead of the concert that the selections were meant to "do justice to the full range of great New York music."

Concert cut short by bad weather

The concert was stopped in the middle of the show of Barry Manilow and everyone was asked to leave and seek shelter from the approaching storm.
The concert was stopped in the middle of the show of Barry Manilow and everyone was asked to leave and seek shelter from the approaching storm.  © IMAGO / TheNews2

The event, broadcast on CNN and branded the Homecoming Concert, put an exclamation point on a week of concerts across the five boroughs intended to celebrate New York’s comeback.

The city coordinated the concert along with Davis and Live Nation, an entertainment company. Many tickets were free, though passes were tricky to come by.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, proud of the city’s rebound from a crisis that in the spring of 2020 turned its streets grim and ghostly, had crowed for weeks about the concert.

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On Saturday, about three hours before the concert started, he rejoiced in all-caps on Twitter.

"New York City is BACK!" the mayor declared. "Get ready for the concert of the century in @CentralParkNYC tonight!"

Al Cartagena (55) traveled from Throgs Neck in the Bronx for the concert, which he said was a once-in-a-lifetime event for him and his wife.

With whipping winds and rain churning up the East Coast, the couple were ready for wet weather, Cartagena said about an hour before the concert began. Henri was expected to make landfall on Long Island on Sunday.

"I’m glad we’re here before the storm," he said. "We’re ready. We’ve got our ponchos."

In the end, the show had to be cut short in the middle of Barry Manilow's set due to the worsening weather, as the crowds were told to seek shelter.

Cover photo: IMAGO / TheNews2

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