STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Like many music fans, I had several concerts I was looking forward to attending in 2020.
But when the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic shuttered the globe, live music ceased for more than a year.
Most of the 2020 concerts tickets I had purchased — like Billie Eilish — got canceled. Some shows — including Matchbox Twenty/Wallflowers and the long-anticipated arena show featuring Def Leppard/Mötley Crüe/Poison/Joan Jett — are rescheduled for 2022.
So when I found out there were free tickets to star-studded free concerts in each borough for all New Yorkers who are fully vaccinated, I made sure I got mine. The Staten Island show last Tuesday, headlined by Wu-Tang Clan members, had a great line up of hiphop and freestyle artists I got to see.
But I couldn’t wait for the Central Park show, which was produced by music titan Clive Davis. And, at that one, I got to sit in the press area (so I could write this story).
CENTRAL PARK SHOW
Arriving just in time for the concert to begin, the sun magically came out at the 5 p.m. sharp concert start.
It was amazing to see so many vaccinated people in one place — most without masks — enjoying a star-packed concert featuring icons from nearly every music genre, from rap and rock, to opera and country.
I stood on a barrier in the press area and had a great view of some of my all-time rock favorites, like Santana and Rob Thomas.
Cheers from the fully vaccinated crowd that boasted 60,000 welcomed the early acts of the show, which included Jennifer Hudson, Carlos Santana, Rob Thomas and Wycleaf Jean, Journey, Kane Brown, LL Cool J, Jon Batiste, Andrea Bocelli, Earth, Wind & Fire, Lucky Daye, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Barry Manilow, and the New York Philharmonic.
And the pervading mood of the crowd was “happy”– happy they were at a concert and everyone there was vaccinated. The alcohol-free concert drew New Yorkers from all over the city, who sat on blankets and danced on Central Park’s Great Lawn.
But, right in the middle of Barry Manilow’s 1978 hit “Can’t Smile Without You,” the singer’s microphone cut out. The crowd let out a sigh, hoping it was just a technology glitch. But concertgoers were immediately instructed over loudspeakers that the concert was over due to the impending Tropical Storm Henri.
“Please proceed to your vehicles and protected areas outside of the event center,” said the voice over the loudspeaker. At the time, it was just drizzling.
But by the time I walked out of the park, it had started to pour.
I met up with a friend and hopped on a bus as crowds of people — many of whom were still on line just to get into the concert venue — were scrambling for transportation to get out of the rain.
The grand finale of a weeklong concert series in NYC was rained out before headliners Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon got to take the stage. I was also bummed I didn’t get to see The Killers, Patti Smith and Elvis Costello.
In the end, it was a free concert, so I can’t complain about not seeing the whole line-up. But I’m glad I got a glimpse of concerts of the future — all vaccinated people enjoying a good time and great music — like before we ever heard of COVID-19.