Review: Pearl Jam, Coldplay & Beyonce At Global Citizens Festival

Photo credit: @tysonsadler on Instagram

“Feel the sky blanket you, with gems and rhinestones. See the path cut by the moon, for you to walk on.” — Eddie Vedder (“Unthought Known”)

About halfway through Pearl Jam’s headlining set of Saturday’s Global Citizens festival, Eddie Vedder tells a story about writing Backspacer’s “Unthought Known” in New York City. “About four or five years back, in a room overlooking Central Park, I was still awake at four in the morning. I saw the most beautiful evening sky, the streets were empty, the stars were out. I should have been getting some sleep, but I started scribbling lyrics. There was magic happening in front of me. Then I got to see the sunrise in this beautiful part of this great city,” said Vedder.

A perfect day for a festival, it seemed that song, and the moments surrounding it, could serve as the emotional foundation for the entire day. 60,000 people jammed into New York City’s Great Lawn – Central Park. What makes this festival different is that the crowd had to participate in the activism before the actual show. It’s the only way you have a chance to get in (without shelling out huge money for VIP). With that, the artists and celebrity speakers showed great appreciation for all that was done before a single note was played.

Coldplay kicked off the show at 4pm and got the crowd moving with a jumpy “Every Tear Drop is a Waterfall.” They continued on their path to get the juices flowing with an uptempo set and a few surprises mixed in – including Ariana Grande joining Chris Martin on stage for an acoustic performance of “Just a Little Bit of Your Heart” and a new song entitled “Amazing Day” to close their set.

Next up was English singer-songwriter, Ed Sheeran. If you only know Sheeran by his radio songs, go see him live. He performed his entire set solo with simply a guitar and his loop pedals. If you miss one note or are off beat by a split second when using loop pedals, you have then ruined your entire song. Sheeran was flawless, incredibly entertaining and is remarkably talented. The highlight of his set being – Chris Martin joining him (on piano) for a rendition of “Thinking Out Loud.”

The night certainly had its run of collaborations including Sting joining Common on stage 2 before Beyonce’s performance, who many were there to see. Beyonce had a strong empowerment message to deliver throughout her set that fit the theme of the festival and organization. Sheeran would join her mid-set for an acoustic version of “Drunk in Love” (though this festival does not serve alcohol).

The nights hosts’ – Stephan Colbert and Hugh Jackman then returned for their MC finale which included a lineup of CEO’s to lead up the nights headliners, the one and only Pearl Jam.

“Good Evening. I think a toast is in order. Here’s to New York City, here’s to Central Park, here’s to you,” said lead singer Eddie Vedder, before a thunderous “Mind Your Manners” opener. The Seattle rockers came out swinging as “Do the Evolution” and “Given to Fly” followed.

A bit of a shorter set than usual for Pearl Jam, even for a festival, the band did a great job of mixing hits in with songs appropriate for the setting and purpose. They carried the torch of gratitude for all Global Citizens does and for what those in attendance had done in order to be apart of festivities. They too kept on the theme of surprises. For one, their encore started with a full band version of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” where Eddie gave a beautiful tribute to Lennon, speaking of how relevant Central Park was to his music and advertising the gathering that will be taking place in the park in honor of Lennon’s would-be – 75th birthday. Though Vedder has played “Imagine” solo numerous times, this was the first time Pearl Jam played a full band version. It was stellar, and got all 60,000 people singing in unison.

Then came perhaps the nights most unique pairing as Vedder welcomed Beyonce to the stage for a duet of “Redemption Song.” “It’s not everyday you get to sing with a queen,” said Vedder.

To close the evening, all artists were welcomed on stage for a celebratory “Rockin in the Free World.” During a week where faith and spirituality were ever-present in New York City, Pearl Jam did a perfect job tying it all together with the motives of the concert. Often, their own movement is compared to that of a spiritual journey. How fitting we would find them at the musical helm to unify the masses at the conclusion of it all.

Pearl Jam’s setlist:
Mind Your Manners
Do the Evolution
Given to Fly
Elderly Woman
Lightning Bolt
Daughter
Unthought Known
Betterman
Alive
——–
Imagine
Redemption Song (Vedder solo with Beyonce)
Rockin in the Free World

Contact: JeffGorra@gmail.com; @JeffGorra on twitter REPORTER: Jeff Gorra Bio: Jeff has been in and around the Rock/Alternative world for many years having spent time at K-Rock radio in New York and Live Nation. Additionally, Jeff served as a street team director under the Chris Cornell camp from 2005-2009. During the years of 2003-2011, Jeff found himself on the other side of the guitar having fronted the New York City band Breakerfall and The Jeff Gorra Band. His first solo effort Jeff Gorra – The Reins was released in late 2010 and still resides on iTunes. Now a New England resident, Jeff came aboard Alternative Nation in 2013 focusing on interviews, after years of being a faithful reader. Fun facts: Jeff is a die-hard New York Giants fan. Some of his favorite artists include; Pearl Jam, John Lennon, Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder and anything Chris Cornell. Contact Jeff at Jeffgorra @gmail.com
  • God

    I just don’t like that song

  • Stone Gossardish

    Unthought Known is a fantastic acoustic guitar, Ed only song. It’s not a great Pearl Jam song. The answer, hopefully on the next tour, is for Ed to play it pre-show or as part of an acoustic couple of numbers.