Saturday’s Global Citizen Festival brought politicians, celebrities, and musicians from all over the globe together in New York’s Central Park to promote global development. There were serious issues at hand, like girls’ education, refugee crises, and climate change measures, but also a lot of great music and entertainment. Here are our 10 favorite highlights.
Apple Martin brings generations together
Towards the end of Coldplay’s hit-packed opening set (during which they debuted a new song), singer Chris Martin paused. “As you know, Global Citizen Festival is all about bringing together people with the same interests,” he told the crowd. “We could just be ourselves as English band Coldplay or we could cross generations with someone younger and much more good-looking, which we can all agree we need. So I asked Apple who would be best and after weeks of deliberation this was the young singer she decided on.” The band then brought out Ariana Grande and accompanied her on the Harry Styles-written “Just a Little Bit of My Heart.” After referencing his daughter, Martin did not miss the chance for an epic Dad Joke, telling Grande “I was going to wear that outfit!”
Hugh Jackman sucks at the vuvuzela:
After Coldplay’s set, emcees Stephen Colbert and Hugh Jackman took the stage to reiterate the festival’s Global Goals: ending extreme poverty, fighting climate change, promoting education for girls worldwide. To celebrate the unveiling, Jackman took up the vuvuzela (global source of excitement and extreme annoyance), and promptly failed to blow it. He tried one more time before throwing it to the audience with a “here, you try it.” “It takes a special kind of music talent to suck at the vuvuzela,” Colbert declared.
Leo vs. climate change
Leonardo DiCaprio isn’t just a movie star and perennial Oscar nominee, he’s also an environmental activist and United Nations “messenger for peace.” DiCaprio took the stage at the festival to give an impassioned speech about the dangers of climate change. “Right now Europe is paralyzed trying to absorb the influx of over a million Syrian refugees,” he told the crowd. “But more than a billion people, most of them in Asia, currently live in low-lying coastal regions. What will happen when they become sea-level refugees? We need to take the steps to address this all-too-human disaster together. We are running out of time.”
Big Bird loves tweeting and toilet talk
Following DiCaprio’s speech about the relationship between climate change and poverty, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim came on stage to talk about the importance of sanitation in fighting poverty. He even brought Sesame Street’s Big Bird with him, to discuss the role of childhood education in implementing important sanitary measures in developing countries. Big Bird didn’t miss the chance to lighten the mood, of course. “I heard there was a lot of tweeting going on in Central Park today, so I came out here to be social!”
Ed Sheeran was a one-man band…until he wasn’t
In stark opposition to the other musical performances of the day, Ed Sheeran essentially played a solo set at the festival, just him and an acoustic guitar. Thanks to a foot pedal, the pop star was able to loop some of his sounds together to create percussion effects on songs like “Photograph.” The setup worked well, though Sheeran eventually expanded by bringing Coldplay singer Chris Martin to trade verses on “Thinking Out Loud.”
Joe Biden expresses his views
Vice President Joe Biden took the festival stage to give an impassioned speech about the power of young people to make a difference on global issues, but didn’t miss the chance to weigh in on the evening’s entertainment: “I know elected officials aren’t supposed to have strong views, but I love Coldplay!” Biden ended his speech with, “Let me introduce you to a friend of mine, who happens to be President of the United States,” throwing it to a video message from President Barack Obama about human dignity.
Common and Sting unite genres
Of all the genre-bending musical collaborations at Saturday’s festival, perhaps none was more unexpected than rapper Common and singer Sting, who united for a cover of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” (featuring new Common rap verses).
Feminist power jam
One of the biggest themes of the night was the importance of girls’ education. Colbert admitted it was the issue that got him involved with Global Citizen Festival. One sequence towards the end of the night featured one feminist spokesperson after another: Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg talked about her country’s donation to global girls’ education, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven discussed his explicitly feminist government, Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai promoted the importance of childhood education, and First Lady Michelle Obama appeared via video message (and later in person) to promote her campaign #62MillionGirls. It all built to an epic performance from the First Lady of pop music, Beyoncé.
What’s in the box?
Even when playing on a stage that had to accommodate dozens of other speakers over the course of the night, Beyoncé still provided an epic stage production. Her set started as a giant beige box on stage and, after a long buildup, the box finally lifted off to reveal the singer standing on containers of her dancers. She started with the slowed-down Fifty Shades of Grey version of “Crazy In Love,” before launching into the original fast-paced banger. Constrained by time limits, later parts of Beyonce’s set became a hits medley: “Run the World (Girls)” into “Flawless” into “Feeling Myself.” The epic performance was like Beyoncé’s tribute to herself, and women in general. In that, it was basically the thesis of the entire women-focused festival.
Pearl Jam come back to Central Park
Pearl Jam went all-out for their closing set, blasting through hits like “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town,” bringing Beyoncé on stage for a cover of “Redemption Song,” and even covering John Lennon’s “Imagine” (“there are few songs you hold in reverence as much as this one, but considering the message and the park he had such a connection to, it’s the one time you have to play it”).
Singer Eddie Vedder introduced “Unthought Known” by describing how he wrote the lyrics in a hotel room overlooking Central Park years ago. “I could never imagine playing it in the middle of the thing that inspired it.” Pearl Jam gave the night an epic send-off by covering Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” as a bunch of previous speakers rushed the stage to dance along.