Sunday, 30 September 2012

Global Festival - Central Park: Neil Young, Foo Fighters, Black Keys and more

I was fortunate enough to "win" tickets in the lottery for the Global Festival at Central Park's great lawn.

Global Citizen's own FAQ states: Global Citizen is a tool to amplify and unite a generation’s call for justice. It’s a place for you to learn, and act, to bring an end to extreme poverty.

Now, I don't know about anyone else, but I think that forcing the concert goers to not be allowed to bring in outside food and drink is not a good start to the message of ending world poverty. Unless you want to starve 60,000 people so that they might experience what it is like to go without! I had to throw out a SEALED bottle of water (and downed another), and the mountains of perfectly good food and beverage that others had to waste is really unforgivable. I figured that there would be some decent food trucks once we got out to the field (one way of scoring points to get into the draw was to buy organic food, so I thought they'd be promoting that...), but in our area there was one tiny little stall that sold a few dodgy $8 sandwiches (all of which had cheese, which meant I went through the day on a packet of crisps that cost me $3).

Once inside we were ring-fenced into "pens" which I suppose is a way to stop obnoxious doucehbags from thinking they're entitled to get to the front by turning up late and barging their way through the crowd, although it obviously just meant that many people barged their way as far as the barrier then asked the security if they could get into the front pen (I overheard one person moaning "this is the furthest away I've ever been from the stage at a gig", cry me a river...)... we arrived as they closed off the "first" pen so were at the front of the second pen, I'm guessing we were about 100 yards from the stage, not too bad all things considered, we decided to stay put for the day though we wouldn't have had much choice in that anyway since we were penned in.

So, the organisation and ethics of the day were off to a dubious start... in any case I was looking forward to the music and expected it to be interspersed with lots of overly sentimental appeals for support. That was exactly what we got, I sympathise greatly to those suffering from poverty and those in need, I'm just not sure throwing a big concert is the way to spread these ideas, the crowd were not particularly interested in the big screen videos and I could not hear any of the speakers due to crowd chatter and certainly those around me were getting agitated as the day wore on. People come to a day like this to see the bands.

Anyway, so was the music any good?! First act K'Naan was ok, a little sentimental and cheesey but he's writing about his life experiences and the genuine troubles he's had to go through, so it's hard to be too critical, it just didn't resonate with me. 

Band of Horses were up next, I'd listened to their previous record but honestly couldn't remember any of their songs, which probably says it all. They were ok but it was a bit bland, music-for-the-masses type of rock. 

Next up, John Legend, who was not on the bill, made a brief appearance and sang John Lennon's Imagine, I don't really know Legend's work but I hear the name all the time. Anyway, he mumbled the "and no religion too" lyric, which would be a great start to ending world poverty, and a sure way to end polio, which would probably have happened already if it weren't for religious influence in the three remaining countries on the planet where polio is still a problem... and then ended by saying "god bless"! Just an odd observation...

The speakers appealing for support ranged from celebrities and those involved with various charities, Olivia Wilde spoke a few times and came across as very sincere and that she was a well-rounded individual who could take in any subject, delivered in a bubbly style that is more likely to get people involved. I'd love to meet her and find out more about what it was like to have Christopher Hitchens as a babysitter!

People seemed to be going crazy because Selena Gomez was one of the speakers, I now know what it feels like to be old because I have no idea who she is...

Now we were heading toward the three main acts, The Black Keys played a decent and high energy set although for me it didn't really get going until about half-way through. I have three of their albums that I enjoy and I was expecting them to pummel out that really fat guitar sound that I know (the last album I have is Attack and Release...) but it seemed a bit cleaner and, well... nice for the most part. I'm glad I've seen them though and they saved the best to last with a rasping rendition of I Got Mine.

Next up were the Foo Fighters, I've seen the Foos twice before but not for 10 years, so I was quite looking forward to seeing them again. Some may scoff at their output but when it comes to pop-rock Dave Grohl really knows how to write a good tune, although personally I had rather tuned out after 2002's One By One, which I think is their best album, since then they've been at best average with the odd good single. In any case, those first four albums are all very good. We got a bit of a greatest hits set and Grohl really knows how to work a crowd, I think they suffer a bit too much with the false-ending of songs, that works a couple of times but quite often it's best just to finish a song rather than deliver a crescendo then go back into the song and finish it again. A few bands seem to suffer from this unnecessary excess. The band indicated that this was the last show they have planned and that they don't know when they will play again, if that does turn out to be their last ever show then I think they can be happy with such a huge send-off. Grohl said during the Foo Fighters set that they wished they could play all night, but that he wanted to see Neil Young!

For me, I was there to see Neil Young. Foo Fighters and the Black Keys were a nice bonus, but I'm a big NY fan. I was flabbergasted to see a bit of an exodus after Foo Fighters finished! Anyway, after a bit of wait Neil Young and Crazy Horse came out onto the stage and played an absolutely blistering set! One word of praise for the whole day, I have to say, is that the sound was incredible for an outdoor concert, it was faultless for all the bands. They opened with an extended version of Love and Only Love from Ragged Glory, which seemed an appropriate message for the day.

We then got old favourite Powderfinger followed by two new songs, Born in Ontario and Walk Like a Giant which was stretched out to about 15-minutes, Young's guitar playing was as incendiary as ever and it was a real thrill to hear that great sound scream out. I'd seen Neil Young play in Hammersmith a few years ago, playing an acoustic set followed by an electric set, but seeing him with Crazy Horse seems to invigorate his playing. 

After the sonic assault of Walk Like a Giant, Young calmed things down with The Needle and the Damage Done, followed by another new song, Twisted Road, which is his tribute to Bob Dylan.

The highlight of the evening was Fuckin' Up, one of my favourite songs in the whole discography and it was delivered with suitable power and of course, extended! 

The whole evening was brought to a close with Rockin' In the Free World, joined on stage by all the previous acts, including Grohl and Dan Auerbach playing guitar, both of whom looked as though they could scarcely believe they were on stage playing with Neil Young.

While the organisation of the day seemed to me to be a bit chaotic and the message was fumbled and a missed opportunity, going hungry and having to stand in the same spot for 6 hours was worth it to see Neil young absolutely nail through his set and deliver numerous crushing guitar solos. 

We all have a duty to be aware of the problems that many face in the world, be it financial or social, and the day had a good message, but didn't deliver it terribly well. And while most people in the world avoid the elephant in the room (religion is not a net force for good), we have to base all future efforts on  shared humanistic values and the best evidence and methods possible (leaving faith out of the picture completely). The ideal of the global citizen is an endearing one, however.


  1. Thanks, I liked reading this. Wish I could hear Neil Young live, especially with Crazy Horse.

    1. Thanks for reading! I hope you get the chance to see him at some point.

  2. I was there as well and agree with much of what you said. Loved Neil and was thrilled to death to see people leaving as I knew i'd finally be able to move. I was also struck by the dis-organization of the event in terms of the "initial" security. We were told we could bring empty water bottles but I noticed that even those who managed to get them past security couldn't find a place to fill them. We literally dumped out two backpacks of factory sealed snacks & drinks that the GC website said you could bring. Later I couldn't help think about how far the food and water 60K of us dumped could have gone somewhere else. I was lucky enough to get in the first "pen" and immediately sat against the railing which ended up being a dynamite strategy I'll use again. Overall though, I think the concert was fabulous and I can't imagine the nightmare that is coordinating security for an event that big. I didn't like the pens but the alternative, 60,000 people pushing me?? I'll take the pens and the security and give credit where it's due. Rock on.

    1. Agreed it must be very difficult to co-ordinate the security for something like that, I think the pens worked just fine in that regard, they just needed to give the people in the pens more options with regards to food, drink and facilities.

  3. Oh I think that it's cute that you confuse religion for faith.

    1. No confusion at all. Faith is believing in something with insufficient evidence, if there were good reasons to believe in a religion, it would cease to be faith and form part of our regular discourse. Since there is no good evidence and no good reason to believe in any religion, they are all faith-based.

  4. I thought Band of Horses did quite well in such a short set

  5. It was also quite a trip to see Dan Auerbach in complete awe of Neil. I guess we all have someone to look up to. Great cause. Well behaved crowd.

    Black Keys - 9.1
    Foo - 8.9
    Neil - 9.3
    BOH - 9 but incomplete

    1. Great point - we Canucks are very proud of our Mr. Young. The Black Keys are one my my faves so is pretty cool to see Dan Auerbach actually morphed by another guitarist. He's the shit.

  6. You went too easy on the organization in terms of the food policy.

    The online tickets were accompanied by a long list of forbidden items. It specified no alcohol and no picnic baskets. It id not make it clear that no food or drink would be permitted.

    I made an effort to comply with their rules in advance, but got undone at the security checkpoint.

    Can you imagine the audience at Philharmonic in the Parks being treated so poorly ?

    1. Agreed, it was scandalous! Thanks for reading.

  7. I have to say, is that the sound was incredible for an outdoor concert, it was faultless for all the bands. They opened with an extended version of Love and Only Love from Ragged Glory, which seemed an appropriate message for the day. Lucky you!