Global Citizen Festival returns even bigger, bolder

27 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Beyoncé outshines the stars at Global Citizen Festival.

Beyonce, Ed Sheeran, Coldplay and Pearl Jam were among the acts that performed at the Global Citizen Festival in New York’s Central Park on Saturday night.Some of the biggest names in music and politics from Beyonce to European prime ministers rallied Saturday in a concert aimed at mobilizing action to eradicate extreme poverty.

The festival aims to raise awareness about issues such as inequality, climate change and poverty and was timed to coincide with the announcement of the United Nations’ new Global Goals which seek to put an end to these problems by 2030. Among the speakers at the event were U2’s Bono, actors including Leonardo DiCaprio, Katie Holmes, Hugh Jackman and Salma Hayek, comedian Stephen Colbert, Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, US first lady Michelle Obama and vice president Joe Biden, and Swedish prime minister Stefan Lfven. Beyonce, playing just her second concert this year, was the top attraction for many fans who obtained tickets not by paying but by committing to activism ranging from writing letters to volunteering. Other performers included rock veterans Pearl Jam and Coldplay, fresh English pop sensation Ed Sheeran, socially conscious rapper Common and — in an effort to raise the profile of the festival in India — leading Bollywood singer Sunidhi Chauhan. On Friday, the UN endorsed a goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030 — in part by focusing on opportunities for girls, an investment with sweeping consequences for families’ futures.

The hits were mostly present and correct, ranging from solo cuts such as “Crazy in Love” and “Halo,” and Destiny Child throwbacks “Survivor,” and “Jumpin,’ Jumpin.’” She even gave part of her glory to Ed Sheeran who backed her on a smooth, stripped down version of “Drunk in Love.” Her physical performance remains staggeringly close to perfection thanks to inch perfect choreography and vocals that never seem to stray. It says it works with other NGOs, business leaders, world leaders and global citizens in its efforts “to build the largest movement of people taking actions and calling on governments to support policies that would significantly impact the world’s poor”. Despite wide official endorsements of the so-called Sustainable Development Goals, the UN estimates that achieving them would cost the world up to $5 trillion each year — a huge commitment.

And the messages of female empowerment are not just tokenistic; they came thick and fast, from sources as varied as Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, UFC fighter Ronda Rousey, and naturally, Bey’s own mouth. The prime ministers of Luxembourg, Malta, Norway and Sweden came to the festival to offer support, with US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron appearing by video. Presidents, prime ministers and diplomats from the UN’s 193 members stood and applauded loudly after General Assembly president Mogens Lykketoft announced the approval of the development roadmap. Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway, one of the world’s top donors, said that the festival should serve as a catalyst for a “massive increase in educational funding.” Pearl Jam brought back to stage Beyonce for Bob Marley’s inspirational “Redemption Song,” which segued to a video of late anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela urging a fight against poverty. Naturally, almost everyone wanted to hear their early classic “Alive” (they didn’t disappoint), but the feral fury of 1998’s “Do the Evolution” and its themes of human arrogance served to remind the Global Citizens of Central Park of what they should be fighting against.

Pop starlet Ariana Grande joined Coldplay, while Common’s hard-charging hip-hop set merged into “Every Breath You Take” as a bearded Sting suddenly appeared. There must be an unwritten law that John Lennon’s torch anthem has to get played at any benefit gig and during the encore, Pearl Jam dutifully obeyed.

Taking the microphone in between pop stars, the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai dramatized the plight of girls who want to go to school. But this, coupled with an earnest, Beyoncé-assisted version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” felt a little too close to charity concert cliché for comfort. Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio urged the world also to reach a deal on climate change, warning that rising temperatures and disasters risked making poverty all the more daunting. “But more than one billion people, most of them in Asia, currently live in low-lying coastal regions.

The acoustic treatment of “Just a Little Bit of Your Heart” was a nice idea but no matter how it’s dressed, the Harry Styles-penned track remains unbearably sappy. Singing with a rare aggression and thrashing his guitar to create a chorus of sounds and loops, the Brit showed his one-man show can occasionally captivate.

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