Dave Grohl delivered more warnings that the Foo Fighters will be staying away for a very long time at the massive Global Citizen Festival in New York’s Central Park on Saturday, flatly telling the estimated 60,000-plus fans that “this is it.”
“Without making a big deal out of it, we don’t have any shows after this. This is it, man,” the frontman said before the band ripped into “Learn to Fly,” their fourth song of the night. “Honestly, I don’t know when we’re gonna do it again… and this is the perfect place to do it.”
The place was the Great Lawn. The view for Grohl and company was a sea of devotees and the NYC skyline about 25 blocks to the south. The free, ticketed event that inspired the group was spearheaded by the Global Poverty Project, an advocacy group that works to end extreme poverty. Somali-Canadian singer K’Naan and indie rockers Band of Horses opened with brief sets.
Foo’s intensely all-in performance kicked off with “Times Like These” — “This song was written for nights like this,” Grohl mused, and the night was dotted with stadium anthems like “All My Life,” “My Hero” and “Best of You.”
Before set closer “Everlong,” Grohl’s message to the leaping, arm-waving masses contained a hopeful opening, “I don’t know when, but we’ll see you again.”
Flanking the Foo Fighters on the bill at Global Citizen were fellow lovers-of-loud The Black Keys and closer Neil Young. The expanded live Keys — Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney now have a supporting cast — showcased their thick, blues stomp on “Gold on the Ceiling,” “Dead and Gone” and “Run Right Back,” off last year’s No. 2-debuting “El Camino,” and slightly older favorites “Strange Times” from 2008’s “Attack & Release.”
“What an amazing thing. This feels great up here,” Auerbach beamed from the elaborate, vortex-like stage in a concert produced by Goldenvoice (see Coachella, Stagecoach).
Neil Young and Crazy Horse, respectively positioned as the main headliner, did not so much follow the lead of their young apprentices Foo Fighters and Black Keys, who played mainstream favorites earlier in the night. Instead, Uncle Neil did what Uncle Neil does, which is to say he and his tight-knit band of road warriors did whatever the hell they wanted. That meant opening with 14 minutes of 2-chord noodling on “Love and Only Love,” off 1990’s “Ragged Glory,” followed two songs later by the bouncy, unreleased “Born in Ontario,” which Young introduced with a short story about NYC.
“Good to see ya,” he said. “I’m from up North. I came here for an audition. It’s a great place, even though I didn’t get it.”
Following “Ontario” was another challenge to the younger crowd in the form of “Walk Like a Giant,” a new song off the upcoming “Psychedelic Pill” that was only officially unveiled days ago. Clocking in at well over 10 minutes, “Giant” is comprised largely of whistles from Young and rhythm guitarist Frank Sampedro and an extended outro of dissonant feedback, rumbles, shakes and park-rattling stomps (from the song’s mythical namesake?).
“So noisy, ” one exiting festival-goer assessed following the show. “That shit was like Sonic Youth or something.”
Young played two songs released pre-1989, the live gem “Powderfinger,” off 1979’s “Rust Never Sleeps,” and later during an acoustic interlude “The Needle and the Damage Done,” from his most popular album, 1972’s “Harvest.” For his only other solo performance of the night, the unfazed-by-convention Young played a mystery track about “the first time I heard Like a Rolling Stone.”
[Fans hoping to hear “Helpless,” “After the Gold Rush” or “Heart of Gold” were out luck. And if they thought the glowing moon poking through the clouds above New York would have inspired an early Autumn performance of “Harvest Moon,” well…]
The hard charging “Ragged Glory” song “F*!#in’ Up” followed, which set up an all-star finale of “Rockin’ in the Free World” that was anything but fu–ed up. A beaming Dave Grohl and Dan Auerbach joined Young, Sampedro, bassist Billy Talbot and drummer Ralph Molina and produced a spirited round of solo-chorus-solo-chorus before the rest of the day’s performers emerged to sing along.
The one day festival was unique in that organizers were not asking for donations, rather the goal was to raise awareness and inspire activism on matters of extreme poverty, clean water access, and malaria and polio eradication. Global Poverty Project co-founder and CEO Hugh Evans told reporters during the show that, “This is just the beginning of the movement.”
The day also saw appearances by celebrities including Selena Gomez and Olivia Wilde, a taped message and special music video from Beyonce and a surprise, and inspired, performance of John Lennon’s “Imagine” by R&B crooner John Legend.