Entertainment

Jennifer Lopez brings the world to her block

The last time a mega-concert took place in a post-pandemic NYC on the Great Lawn of Central Park, Mother Nature — in the guise of Hurricane Henri — stormed on the parade of music stars. The downpour forced the event to be canceled midway through before the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon could even perform.

A month later, on a sun-drenched Saturday, there was no such drama for Global Citizen Live NYC‚ which was just one of a 24-hour festival across six continents — from London and Paris to Rio De Janeiro and Lagos, Nigeria — raising voices for the hunger crisis, climate needs of developing countries and COVID-19 vaccination distribution. And in a surprise appearance, Simon — who was supposed to close the Homecoming Concert on Aug. 21 — provided the finale that the 79-year-old Queens native was supposed to have five weeks ago, singing such classics as “The Sound of Silence” and “The Boxer.”

It was a fitting end to a night that had been previously owned by another hometown hero: the Bronx’s own Jennifer Lopez. As if setting out to prove that she was not going to be upstaged in her own city by any other artist, J.Lo won the night over such other music heavyweights other as Billie Eilish, Coldplay and Lizzo.

People attend the Global Citizen Live Festival in New York City on 25 September 2021.
People attend the Global Citizen Live Festival in New York City on September 25, 2021.
EPA

After a shout out from Mayor Bill de Blasio — who, just as at the Homecoming Concert, was once again greeted by a chorus of boos — Lopez cranked out a medley that included her hits “If You Had My Love” and “Love Don’t Cost a Thing.” Then she delivered an age-defying re-creation of the “Flashdance”-style choreography from her “I’m Glad” video. Lopez did what real icons do: She took it to the next level by bringing out two other New York legends — LL Cool J and Ja Rule — for “All I Have” and “I’m Real”/“Ain’t It Funny, respectively.

Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks onstage during Global Citizen Live.
Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks onstage during Global Citizen Live.
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Global Citizen

The sexy chemistry between Lopez and LL, in particularly, was enough to make Ben Affleck pull the plug. And then, rocking a glittery gold Yankees hat — clearly, she still has love for the hometown squad despite her breakup with their former star Alex Rodriguez — she reminded us that don’t be fooled by the rocks that she’s got, she’s still “Jenny from the Block.”

Message received.

It was just one highlight of a seven-hour concert that, although somewhat slowed by the speakers appearing between each performance setup, reminded us about the power of live music to transport and transcend even in — make that, especially in — the toughest of times.

People attend the Global Citizen Live Festival on September 25, 2021 in New York City.
People attend the Global Citizen Live Festival on September 25, 2021, in New York City.
EPA

Another New York native, Cyndi Lauper, provided an early highlight by, appropriately for the occasion, adding some world-beat feels to her 1984 classic “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” She then brought out Jon Batiste for “True Colors,” which she described as a “healing song” before delivering the spare ballad with a voice that has lost none of its quirky power.

Batiste — the bandleader for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” — later had a solo set that was a bit of a revelation. Stepping out from behind the piano, he displayed his showmanship skills as a singer and dancer backed by an exuberant band.

Sweethearts Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes performed separate sets, although she brought him out during hers to perform their hit duet “Señorita” — and he definitely got more screams than her. And while Mendes’ set ending with “In My Blood” felt far too long, all the fangirls sending a collective shriek throughout Central Park didn’t seem to mind.

Lizzo was another highlight, hyping up the crowd with “Good as Hell,” “Truth Hurts” and “Juice.”

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle speak at Global Citizen Live in Central Park on Sept. 25, 2021.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle speak at Global Citizen Live in Central Park on Sept. 25, 2021.
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

“It’s moments like this that give me hope for the future of our planet,” she said. “We care, bitch!”

And Prince Harry and Meghan Markle received a rock-star welcome when they took the stage to speak about COVID-19 vaccination distribution across the globe.

Vaccines are a “fundamental human-rights issue,” said Harry. “Every single person deserves equal access to the vaccine.”

And in a nod to his royal pedigree Harry said, “The way you’re born should not dictate your ability to survive.”

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