Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith had a treat planned for the 60,000 or so attendees and countless TV viewers worldwide of the “We Love NYC: The Homecoming Concert” in Central Park.
Then rain and lightning ignited by Hurricane Henri crashed the party, stopping the show mid-Manilow.
Barry Manilow was singing “Can’t Smile Without You” when a member of the stage crew rushed over and gave his bandmates the “cut it” sign.
Notice the stage hand at the “0:07” mark:
The music stopped and an announcement was made urging everyone to flee the Great Lawn – in orderly fashion, of course – and to seek shelter from the storm.
Mass confusion followed. As folks were filing out, Mayor Bill de Blasio suddenly announced the show would continue.
Would the show go on with or without fans, who originally had to show proof of vaccination to get in? No one could say for sure. They were busy issuing "on again/off again" proclamations.
In the meantime, Patti Smith and her band were dispatched to a local watering hole while some other artists retreated to their tents or trailers.
Attendees were stuck in limbo, forced to either find someplace to hang or bail when the rain came down. Lightning strikes had been reported in the city -- including Queens, where two people reportedly were struck -- as well as at the Battery at the southwest point of Manhattan. The Liberty Tower was reportedly struck, as well.
Several fans took to social media, questioning why de Blasio, other NYC officials and promoters ignored widespread warnings that a tropical storm was barreling down on Gotham.
“Er, not sure why NY officials through going through with a ‘Covid-is-over-not-over’ homecoming concert in Central Park when Hurricane Henri was due to hit was a good idea…,” one posted.
Another called the mayor’s public attempt to keep the concert going “an incredibly boneheaded, impossibly naïve performance.”
The event was intended to mark the end of the COVID pandemic in New York City, which had been the global epicenter for the virus in April 2020.
“Who knows how many lives Hurricane Henri saved from Covid by shutting down The NYC Homecoming Super-spread Concert prematurely?” someone tweeted.
CNN had exclusive rights to broadcast the show. Anderson Cooper filled much of the scheduled air time with a livestream cellphone of the Killers performing acoustically in their tent and interviews with Manilow – who sang a refrain for him on the phone -- as well as Costello and Smith.
The longtime Queen of Punk said she and her bandmates hadn’t been told what was going to happen, just that they needed to wait, even though some crew members had already bolted.
Rumors were that the show would pick up again once the rain let up, perhaps around 10 p.m., but the Universe wasn’t having any of it. Someone finally announced to a waterlogged, mostly empty field that the event was over.
Among those waiting who’d been waiting to headline the show’s second half were Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Springsteen and Smith, who had a bit of a reunion planned.
“Nature rules,” Smith told Cooper during the on-air chat. “We have abused nature to the point where she is chaotic and unpredictable”
Smith also said the plan was for her to join Springsteen onstage for “Because the Night.”
As Springsteen's third album, “Born to Run,” was launching him into widespread consciousness in 1975, Smith was releasing her debut album, “Horses,” punching her lyrics with guitar-driven power chords that helped spawn the downtown Manhattan musical movemtn that became known as punk.
Smith’s aimed to speak for the disenfranchised -- those who, like her, were “a little weird or a little different,” who felt out of place in their small hometowns or “outside of society," as the lyrics of one song put it.
Intentional or not, she she ended up crossing over with her third album, “Easter,” produced by in-demand hitmaker Jimmy Iovine (Springsteen, John Lennon, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, U2, Stevie Nicks, Gwen Stefani, Ladi Gaga).
What immediately drew listeners’ attention was a number that opened with a slow, sensual piano arpeggio and the lyrics: “Take me now, baby, here as I am / Hold me close, try and understand; Desire is hunger is the fire I breathe / Love is a banquet on which we feed.”
As the story goes, Iovine had told Springsteen that Smith deserved a hit. Bruce wasn’t getting anywhere with “Because the Night,” apart from a big Boss arena-rock chorus chorus. “If she can do it, she can have it,” he reportedly said.
Smith wrote the verses, then performed “Because the Night” live at CBGB – with Springsteen -- as a birthday gift for her husband, the now-late onetime MC5 founder Fred “Sonic” Smith, on Dec. 30, 1977.
“Because the Night” became a late ‘70s anthem of sorts, one that introduced many listeners to Patricia Lee Smith, who, like Springsteen, lived in the Garden State.
In a twist on a New Jersey rite of passage, she used some of the money to buy her dad a car.
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