New York City’s “Homecoming” concert at Central Park was abruptly halted in the middle of Barry Manilow’s performance Saturday evening — as lightning storms tied to approaching Hurricane Henri descended on the Big Apple.
Concertgoers were told at 7:37 p.m. to “proceed to your vehicles and protected areas outside of the event center” as Manilow was singing his 1978 hit “Can’t Smile Without You.”
An announcer could be heard saying that the highly anticipated concert was “canceled.”
Moments earlier, Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed optimism that the show would go on. “We need everyone for a brief period of time to move to some place safe because of thunder and lightning, and then we will bring the concert back,” he said at the mic.
Some stragglers stuck around — until a heavy downpour sent cleared the park’s Great Lawn where the concert was being held.
Sources said the mayor stubbornly pushed the NYPD to allow the show to resume from 10 p.m. to midnight, but persistent thunder and lightning made that impossible. Police officers had to help people out of the park in vans, including one woman whose wheelchair ran out of power, sources said.
Hurricane Henri, a Category 1 storm, is expected to touch down east of New York City on Sunday. The storm on Saturday dampened the mayor’s hope to showcase a triumphant NYC with a star-studded ensemble featuring Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Journey and a host of other acts cheered by thousands of vaccinated New Yorkers.
Springsteen, Simon, Elvis Costello, Patti Smith and Colombian pop star Maluma were all among the artists whose performances were scuttled by the storm.
But the threat of the wild, wet Sunday did not dampen spirits. Music lovers soaked in the scene and sounds, even as darkening storm clouds blotted out the sunlight and moved in over the skyscrapers of Billionaires’ Row at the southern end of Central Park before showtime.
“It was supposed to rain they said and I said ‘no, no, no!’ come hell or high water I’m coming for New York City,” said Springsteen fan Joanne Novack, 56, of Long Branch, NJ. “I think this is kick ass and I think it’s great.”
The New York Philharmonic tuned up the mood for the evening in the opening set, with a suite of Gotham-inspired instrumentals including “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” popularized by Christopher Cross and “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel.
Gena Borson stood and cheered as the orchestra closed out with Big Apple anthem “Theme from New York New York.”
“Every time I hear that song I get chills,” said Borson, 60, of Harlem. “If Frank Sinatra can’t sing it, I’ll listen to the Philharmonic perform it. New York and New Yorkers are so resilient. We take care of each other here … I think the song is apropos.”
Manilow made it through “Copacabana” and “Mandy” before he was cut off.
“It took so much work from so many people to put this show together. It really is so disappointing,” the Brooklyn-born singer told CNN over the phone. “I had no idea it was going to storm.”
Disappointed music fans hope the show might go on.
“It’s very disappointing. I didn’t even get to see the Killers — that’s the main reason why I came.” said Shinice Hemmings. “The concert was going so well and it was so good.”
Others were furious the show hadn’t been called off earlier.
“We just got in so we’re triggered. We just got in and they’re like ‘Evacuate,’ Brandee McDermott, 26, Bay Ridge, said. “You’re deploying the National Guard yet you’re having a concert? They see the storm coming and they do nothing about it. They pretend it’s not happening.”
“It kinda summarizes 2020 and 2021 for us,” Kevin McKeown, 60, of Long Island said while seeking cover outside the Met. “If you look at it. It sucks all around. It’s more fitting. This would be the concert that people get rained on and it gets canceled and everyone gets screwed.”
Additional reporting by Joe Marino