It’s becoming that We Love NYC: The Homecoming Live performance become a protracted and dropping battle with the weather. Midway by means of the would-be five-hour musical occasion, as Barry Manilow sang “I Can’t Smile With out You,” a disembodied voice urged the hundreds of individuals gathered on Central Park’s Nice Garden to depart. A extreme thunderstorm — introduced on by Hurricane Henri — was approaching, and everybody wanted to hunt shelter elsewhere. For now, the show would not go on.
I suppose that’s to be anticipated for a live performance born of a fantasy concerning the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and burdened by an assumed relevance for New Yorkers, to not point out the occasion’s actual which means for its architects and company sponsors. Earlier than the crowds — unmasked, partially vaccinated — rolled into Central Park, earlier than Gayle King, the night’s host, took the stage, and earlier than the musicians carried out their largely energetic acts, the flashy occasion felt otherworldly, unreal and off-key.
We Love NYC: The Homecoming Live performance
The Backside Line
Properly-conceived, however ill-timed.
The live performance closed out “Homecoming Week,” an eight-day collection whose intention was to laud New York’s resilience by means of occasions throughout the 5 boroughs. A July press launch from the Workplace of the Mayor teemed with hyperbole, describing the event as a “celebration of New York Metropolis’s comeback” that will “promote well being, security and fairness.” Mayor Bill de Blasio referred to as it “an historic, monumental second,” and Clive Davis, famend music government and the present’s producer, knew it could be “unforgettable.” A stacked lineup of legendary skills, from LL Cool J and Earth, Wind & Hearth to Carlos Santana and Bruce Springsteen, solely bolstered the night’s would-be brilliance.
But, as we inched nearer to the day of the occasion, the live performance’s relevance grew to become murkier. It’s timing felt off. The delta variant made its manner by means of town, the day by day variety of instances and hospitalizations ticking greater; new details about its transmission pressured authorities officers to reverse untimely rollbacks on indoor masking; a housing disaster loomed for a whole lot of hundreds New Yorkers in want of rental aid; and a hurricane was making its manner towards town. What precisely the occasion tried to have fun remains to be unclear to me.
The present began with a heavy dose of optimism. King, in a brilliant yellow summer time costume, sauntered onstage, beaming. She started by thanking the important works — the medical doctors, nurses, bus drivers, cashiers — who carry town on their again, taking good care of neighbors and strangers alike. Subsequent got here an emphatic shoutout to the NYPD. King made a degree of expressing her gratitude for his or her service. It felt like a puzzling alternative, notably as a result of it ignored latest historical past: that members of the very working class the occasion goals to have fun marched by means of the streets final summer time, protesting police brutality and demanding that metropolis officers reallocate funds from the bloated police power to social companies.
No time to dwell, nonetheless, as a result of, as King identified, the solar got here out simply earlier than she walked onto the stage. She took that as an indication of this occasion’s goal and promptly launched the New York Philharmonic. The ensemble opened their fantastically passionate set with “Candide,” adopted by “Rhapsody in Blue” after which a shifting “New York, New York.” As darkish grey, brooding clouds gathered within the distance, the Philharmonic was joined by the Italian opera tenor Andrea Bocelli, adopted by American songstress Jennifer Hudson. These early performances possessed an trustworthy sobriety — melancholic however not cynical. A mirrored image of town’s actual temper nowadays.
The night’s musical performances different in kind and high quality. If nothing else, Davis and his group curated an eclectic lineup of many undeniably proficient artists. Whereas the vitality of the group didn’t at all times match the animated spirit of Santana’s guitar solos or Wyclef Jean’s vocals, I can’t say the performers didn’t give it their finest effort. It’s a disgrace, then, that a few of the extra anticipated musicians, like Springsteen, by no means made it to the stage.
The components of this system that proved most troublesome to sit down by means of, nonetheless, had been the interludes — the introductions delivered by the likes of Don Lemon, Sen. Chuck Schumer, and Mayor de Blasio and first girl Chirlane McCray. Their collective dedication to an unrecognizable narrative of New York — one wherein a virus isn’t raging by means of town and whole livelihoods don’t cling within the stability — felt notably exhausting. Their repeated use of an undefined “we” confused me. And the absence of any acknowledgment of the quantity of people that have died through the pandemic was totally baffling. Your entire enterprise appeared like a solution to bolster collective amnesia concerning the previous 16 months, to maneuver shortly previous the traumatic occasions, to declare unearned triumph and to sidestep the obligations we nonetheless have to one another.
With the inclement climate got here a brief suspension of this system — and aid. Lastly, the pretenses may very well be dropped and the absurdity of holding a city-sponsored live performance in the course of one other wave of the pandemic on the night of a hurricane can be revealed. However the night managed to develop extra ludicrous, with Anderson Cooper making an attempt to choose up the place King left off by sustaining the skinny thread of optimism. He sufficiently maneuvered conversations with a few his CNN colleagues, co-host Chloe Melas and on-the-ground correspondent Erica Hill, and with a few of the evening’s musicians, together with Manilow and Patti Smith. Nonetheless, it was exhausting to understand Cooper making the most effective out of a scenario that in all probability shouldn’t have occurred in any respect.