Photos: Central Park Homecoming Concert Cut Short And Evacuated Due To Severe Weather

Just as Barry Manilow finished a truncated version of “Copacabana” and launched into that slow-dance classic “Can’t Smile Without You,” an announcement blasted from the stage: due to severe weather approaching, attendees packed onto the Great Lawn for what Mayor Bill de Blasio called “the concert of the century” were ordered to leave the Central Park immediately.

The huge, fully-vaccinated crowd trundled east and west, and the evacuation—just before 8 p.m., a little over three hours into the show—was moving along safely and with impressive speed as the rain came down and lightning lit up the area. But then, Mayor de Blasio got on stage and anyone still in earshot heard him announce that the show would still go on.

Mayor de Blasio in front of a sign alerting people to find shelter

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Mayor de Blasio telling the crowd the show may go on.

Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock

“We want to bring the concert back,” de Blasio said, while standing in front of a sign that was urgently asking attendees to exit quickly and find shelter. He added, “Move to somewhere indoors briefly nearby. We’re going to get you an update shortly.” Jeff Coltin, a reporter with City & State, documented the chaos:

This led to some concert-goers turning around and settling back in towards the stage to wait it out.

Among the performers who they were still hoping to catch were headlining acts like Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Maluma, and The Killers.

Meanwhile, CNN — the network broadcasting the concert to those at home — was also left hanging, at one point filling time by having Barry Manilow call in to sing over the phone to Anderson Cooper.

At this point, they believed the show may still return, at least for broadcast. And it’s still unclear why—as Henri was approaching the city and de Blasio had earlier declared NYC under a State of Emergency—a backup plan was not put in place earlier in the week that would have allowed the show to go on for at-home audiences, live from, say, the Beacon Theatre.

Following the confusion, another announcement finally came out of Central Park, this time not from the mayor, telling those who returned: “This event has been canceled.”

people evacuating

Andy Kropa/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

For a few hours though, the “We Love NYC: The Homecoming Concert” did seem to live up to its promise of celebrating the resilience of our city while providing an all-star lineup of musical acts for free. The festivities opened with the New York Philharmonic, renowned tenor Andrea Bocelli, and an operatic Jennifer Hudson. After a lengthy speech by the concert’s programmer, Clive Davis, things got a bit more rocking as Carlos Santana hit the stage, performing one song with Wyclef Jean, and two with Rob Thomas, who wore a “New York Or Nowhere” t-shirt for the occasion.

Other highlights included LL Cool J, Fat Joe, Reverend Run, Busta Rhymes, Melle Mel, Scorpio, and A Boogie Wit da Hoodie tearing through a medley of hip hop classics; Journey belting out “Don’t Stop Believin,” and Earth Wind and Fire getting funky with Babyface Edmonds. All these “sets” lasted no more than ten minutes.

concert goers at the Homecoming concert in Central Park, before the storm

Turns out, as the concert grounds were being evacuated, Central Park was having its “rainiest two-hour period in its 151 years of record-keeping.”

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