WE LOVE NYC: The Homecoming Concert was promised to be a “historic, monumental moment for all New Yorkers and all Americans” by Mayor Bill de Blasio. After a tumultuous and heartbreaking 18 months, the city that never sleeps was awoken from its pandemic slumber at the weekend with thousands of attendees turning up to celebrate the city’s big comeback. But as Hurricane Henri loomed towards Manhattan, the highly-anticipated event became historic for another reason.
Barry Manilow was halfway through performing his party hit “Can’t Smile Without You” when his set was cut short by an announcement by the NYPD. Over the speakers and even on Twitter, police urged concert-goers, “calmly move to the nearest exits and proceed to areas outside of the park. This is NOT an emergency.”
According to Bloomberg, 1.9 inches of rain fell in Central Park between 10pm and 11pm alone, making it the wettest 60 minutes New York City has seen since 1869. Watch the moment below. In screen grabs from the live video, massive bolts of lightning could be seen on the horizon.
Here's the moment (on CNN) when the NYC Homecoming Concert came to an abrupt stop while Barry Manilow was performing due to lightning. pic.twitter.com/e3fPWVQfcN
— Mark Wishnia™ (@mewishnia) August 21, 2021
Actual screengrab from CNN not long after the NYC Homecoming Concert was halted. pic.twitter.com/PMmnlJ8Y4v
— Mark Wishnia™ (@mewishnia) August 22, 2021
One concert-goer recalled the moment to ICON:
“There was some rain and then some lightning. Barry Manilow is half-way though ‘Copacabana’ and then it just stops with a safety message telling us to please find our nearest exit and seek shelter. It was just over!”
“De Blasio tried to say it wasn’t over. He popped up and was like, ‘Wait! We’re going to see if it passes.’ And then the safety message came back and was like, ‘Please leave, the concert is cancelled.'”
“There was torrential rain walking out of Central Park and into the subway. My shoes were filled with water. There was rain dripping off my cap. I’ve never seen the rain so heavy. People were just standing under any doorway they could find. The subway was jammed full of people.
It feels like a cruel metaphor for the past two years, and the irony behind the catastrophe was not lost on ticket holders.
“It was like tempting fate to be like, ‘New York’s back! Everything’s fine now!’ They are going to have a field day in the tabloids,” the attendee continued.
“I feel like Mother nature is trying to tell us something and we’re not listening. We’re just dancing amongst the chaos.”
The comeback concert featured a lineup including Andrea Bocelli, Wyclef Jean, Kane Brown, Barry Manilow, Bruce Springsteen, Cynthia Erivo, Don Lemon, Earth, Wind & Fire, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Lucky Daye, Elvis Costello, Gayle King, Jennifer Hudson, Jimmy Fallon, Journey, Jon Batiste, The Killers, LL COOL J, The New York Philharmonic, Patti Smith, Paul Simon, Polo G, Maluma, Carlos Santana, Rob Thomas, JP Saxe and Julia Michaels.
While Australians battle the virus in lockdown, the US has seen a sharp rise in infections over recent weeks. On Friday, 319,000 people tested positive in the US according to Johns Hopkins University.
The event has been likened to another disastrous event in NYC that occurred on Halloween in 2018.