Cardi B, Janet Jackson & More: The Best Moments of New York's Global Citizen Festival 2018

Michael Kovac/FilmMagic
Cardi B performs onstage during the 2018 Global Citizen Concert at Central Park, Great Lawn on Sept. 29, 2018 in New York City.

Global Citizen Festival was back on the Central Park Great Lawn on Saturday (Sept. 29) for its seventh year, with Hugh Jackman and Deborra-lee Furness hosting the event. Performances from Janet Jackson, The Weeknd, Cardi B, Shawn Mendes, Janelle Monáe and special guest John Legend delivered the perfect soundtrack for encouraging attendees to give back on an international scale.   

While the festival was briefly halted when the sound of a fallen fence caused a panic and evacuation, it remained an empowering event focusing on a variety issues ranging from prison reform, waste reduction and education to the non-profit’s primary initiative to end world poverty. And because fans worked hard to engage in activist-minded activities in order to earn tickets to the event, its stellar lineup put on quite a show.   

Here are the best musical moments from Global Citizen Festival's New York showing.    

   

Cardi B’s command of the stage   

From the moment Cardi B prowled onto the stage in a slinky strut with her crew of back-up dancers all dressed in a fiery red, the rapper proved she meant business. Her set was one of the most highly anticipated of the festival, and she delivered everything the crowd could have hoped for. Performing with sheer confidence from top of her set as she “came through” with her hits including “I Like It,” the fierce “Bartier Cardi” and her modern classic “Bodak Yellow,” she aid down her rhymes flawlessly. She worked the stage like a catwalk while she dynamically laid down each witty lyric like the hip-hop queen she is. At the top of her set, the Invasion of Privacy artist said, “I’m nervous, I’m sweating, I had a nervous breakdown today, but it’s fine and I’m here and trying to change the world,” and with her exhilarating set, she proved just how possibly that is.

The Greatest Showman star Keala Settle performs “This Is Me”

While Global Citizen Festival host Hugh Jackman spoke about the importance of inclusion, the star of the recent musical The Greatest Showman also surprised the crowd by introducing his costar Keala Settle who came on stage for a performance of the Oscar-nominated “This Is Me.” Joined by the New York City Gay Men’s Choir, Settle offered her all in a joyous rendition of the song. Her bold, theatrical voice was at the forefront of the emotional song preaching the value of difference, balanced beautifully by the harmonizing choir behind her. It was a brief performance, but encompassed the festival’s message of inclusivity and individuality.

Janet Jackson’s tributes to Joe and Michael Jackson

Headliner Janet Jackson took several moments throughout her career-spanning set to pay tribute to her late brother, Michael Jackson, and Joe Jackson, her father who died in June at the age of 89. Singing “Scream,” the rock-driven collaboration with her brother, she yelled, “Let’s go, Mike!” as visuals of the late pop star lit up the screen behind her. To continue to show respect to her iconic family, the recording artist emotionally introduced her ‘90s hit “Together Again” by looking up and saying, “I miss you. I love you, both of you.” Throughout the sweet but quick number, childhood photos of her and her father filled the screens and Jackson sang with a lively grace to celebrate his legacy.

The Weeknd comforts the crowd

Though headliner The Weeknd’s set was cut short due to the festival’s temporary evacuation, the recording artist proved he was determined to still give a show at no less than 100 percent. Among Starboy favorites like the titular track and “I Feel It Coming,” the R&B singer also sang his recent My Dear Melancholy number “Call Out My Name.” The vulnerable ballad felt like a fitting song for the moment: “Fortunately no one got hurt tonight, but you know I love you," he told the crowd. "I had to cut it short, but I still feel the love." He then went into his finale, the OG Weeknd hit “The Hills,” to end the night on a high note and infuse the festival with the appropriate amount of energy it needed following a dramatic incident.

Janelle Monáe speaks out in support of survivors of sexual assault

In the midst of her set, Janelle Monáe took a moment to declare her support for survivors of sexual violence. The singer used her platform to make a point to speak on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s recent testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding her allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. “This past week was a brutal, brutal week for a lot of us women. This was a brutal week for survivors of sexual violence,” she said. “I want to tell survivors here and watching at home that I hear you, I see you and I believe you.” With sincerity, the R&B artist then led a call and response chant of, “We hear you, we see you, we support you, we believe you,” which was invigorated by supportive voices across the entire the crowd.

Shawn Mendes invites John Legend onto the stage for a duet

While John Legend was billed as a guest performer scheduled only to play three songs, Shawn Mendes brought the EGOT-winning musician back on stage for a special, surprise duet. Together, the two sang Mendes’ rallying song “Youth.” They each took turns alternating verses, Legend taking the solos that were sung by Khalid on the original track, until they united on the chorus when their lush voices entwined to make for an emotional duet. As Mendes and Legend both sang, “You can’t take my youth away,” it was as if the singer-songwriters made a statement to the youthful crowd that there’s no denying the change their generation can bring.

John Legend debuts a new song

John Legend took the opportunity during his special guest performance to share a new, yet-to-be-released song called “Preach.” Accompanied solely by the piano, the artist played the moving anthem about his devotion to civic engagement and activism. He explained the upcoming single is about “how frustrating it can be to look at your phone, read the news, see what’s happening” regarding government officials failing to show support for victims of sexual violence, students defending their right to be safe from gun violence and the Black Lives Matter movement. “It’s not enough to talk about it or tweet about it,” Legend said ahead of debuting “Preach.” “We’ve got to make the world a better place. We can’t just preach.” In the new song’s chorus he triumphantly sang, “Falling to my knees, I do believe I can’t just preach, baby, preach,” stressing the importance of putting words into action.

Festivals 2018