New York’s Central Park saw another year of star-studded appearances and important messages at the 2019 Global Citizen Festival on Saturday (Sept. 28), when celebrities, world leaders and activists came together to advocate for change and an end to extreme poverty.
This year’s Global Citizen Fest also celebrated a wide array of music, as legendary acts Queen and Carole King performed timeless classics while K-pop stars NCT 127 and H.E.R. brought a more current flair. But it was evident that every act who took the stage — whether they were performing or presenting — were there to send a message.
“We’re here to change the world,” Queen’s Brian May declared.
Check out some of the highlights from the 2019 Global Citizen Festival below.
Ben Platt’s Electrifying “Rain” Performance
Billed as a “special guest,” Platt only performed two songs, but that was all it took to leave a mark. The Tony winner’s voice first soared during his Sing To Me Instead lead single “Bad Habit,” then went to another level for his latest release “Rain.” The song’s racing melody amplified his voice as well as Platt’s dance moves, as he was clearly jazzed to be on stage. And the best part? His parents were there to witness it.
OneRepublic’s Jaw-Dropping Rendition of Beyonce’s “Halo”
Frontman Ryan Tedder gave each of OneRepublic‘s six songs his all, adding runs and power moments to hits like “Good Life” and “Apologize.” But it was his cover of Beyonce’s “Halo” that left the crowd in awe, as Tedder belted out every chorus as if it were a do-or-die performance. Prior to the song, Tedder reminded the crowd that he writes hits for other artists from J.Lo to the Jonas Brothers, and “Halo” is one that he is “so glad” he gave away. After a rendition like that, we’re so glad he still sings it.
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) September 28, 2019
Carole King’s Surprise Guest
In her first Central Park appearance since 1973, the legendary singer-songwriter brought a handful of her most timeless classics from “You’ve Got a Friend” to “I Feel the Earth Move” in her return. Before demanding that those in attendance take action for climate activism, King brought out Kelly Clarkson for a lighthearted duet of “Where You Lead.” King’s raspy voice and Clarkson’s pure tone paired beautifully, but it was their excitement to be singing with each other that was most infectious — perhaps because King was eager to celebrate the next generation. “We are still here, and we’re behind you all the way,” King said, addressing the younger members of the crowd. “And we are with you, as long as we can make it.”
NCT 127’s Stateside Impact
Though NCT 127 were one of the last acts to be announced as part of this year’s Global Citizen Festival, the frenzied reaction to their two-song performance felt as though they were the headliners. Fans were freaking out before the K-pop phenoms even began their hit “Highway to Heaven,” and their impeccable choreography brought the crowd’s volume even higher. “We are very excited to be here and be a part of this movement,” Johnny Seo said (to explosive screams, of course). Upon their exit after performing “Superhuman,” there was a mass exodus of girls sporting Korean headbands and fans with their favorite NCT 127 members. Perhaps they should’ve been headliners after all!
— lee chaeyoung lockdown (@reclvelvets) September 29, 2019
Alicia Keys‘ ‘Dream’-like Duet With H.E.R.
In the middle of Keys’ roaring set that began with the anthemic “Girl on Fire” and featured a surreal rendition of “Empire State of Mind,” the New York native invited H.E.R. back out for a team-up on Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” While it was certainly an unexpected choice for the soulful singers, it was powerful thanks to their dynamic harmonies and H.E.R.’s shredding on the electric guitar. Keys couldn’t help but run around the stage with excitement following their bone-chilling finish, asserting, “That’s what music does!”
— Alicia Keys Daily (@AliciaKeysDaiIy) September 29, 2019
Pharrell’s Short-But-Sweet Appearance
A frequenter of Global Citizen Fest, Pharrell Williams was not a surprise pick for this year’s headliners. But what was surprising was that he only performed three songs. Pharrell made the most of his time on stage, though, starting with a moving version of “Freedom.” After the first chorus, Williams reiterated a message that actress Dakota Johnson shared earlier in the night: “We need gender equality out there in the world,” he said, “now is her time.” The superproducer was then joined by Faith World Ministries’ choir, Voices of Fire, from Williams’ native Virginia, who added a special touch to his meaningful track “Letter to My Godfather” and uplifting hit “Happy.”
Queen’s Ultimate Tribute to Freddie Mercury (With an Extra-Special Introduction)
Thirty-four years after Queen’s iconic Live Aid performance, the rock legends weren’t going to be able to deliver quite the same performance without frontman Freddie Mercury. But with the help of Adam Lambert and a couple of old videos, Mercury’s presence was more than felt. Plus, Bohemian Rhapsody star Rami Malek was on hand to bring Queen to the stage. “This music gives us the resolve and strength to be our most authentic selves,” he exclaimed. “As Freddie said, ‘Are you ready for the show?'”
Queen’s 13-song set had the crowd dancing and singing along for the entire hour they were performing classics like “Another One Bites the Dust” and “Under Pressure,” both thanks to their hit-filled catalog as well as Lambert’s energy. Guitarist Brian May had some solo time with the audience for an acoustic take on “Love of My Life,” which featured the first footage of Mercury (and May’s touching response to his image). The singer later appeared again for the beginning of the encore, as his iconic “Ay-Oh” call and response bit played before Queen and Lambert returned for “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions.” Though they featured the video segment in their Rhapsody Tour set, the moment felt extra special among a sea of 60,000 people — and helped Freddie’s spirit live on in a magical way.
— Global Citizen (@GlblCtzn) September 28, 2019