The Los Angeles component of Global Citizen Live’s 24-hour live broadcast around the world was a welcome, if cautious return to in-person concerts: For many of the attendees of the Greek Theatre show on September 25, 2021, it was their first since March 2020. Flashing vaccine cards prior to entry, the full-capacity crowd caught an all-star lineup with Stevie Wonder, H.E.R., One Republic, 5 Seconds of Summer, Chloe x Halle, Demi Lovato and Adam Lambert, among others.
Los Angeles was among a number of cities, including New York — read Variety‘s report and see photos from the New York edition, with Billie Eilish, Coldplay, Paul Simon and more, here — London, Paris, Sydney, Rio, Mumbai and Lagos hosting Global Citizen Live concerts for live broadcast. In addition, there are one-off performances from such artists as Metallica in Louisville, KY, Andrea Bocelli in Tuscany and BTS in Seoul, among others. Highlights from the global programming will be airing on ABC today (Sept. 26).
Even with just a handful of songs each, every artist on the bill brought the crowd to its feet, particularly during Stevie Wonder’s headlining performance. Pushed up to the edge of his stage with a grand piano and an array of keyboards, Wonder’s already exciting appearance was ramped up with H.E.R. joining him on guitar for the first of his three songs, “Superstition.” Wonder continued with “Overjoyed,” packaging messages about taking action in an authentic personal anecdote, connecting the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to the birth of his grandchild. Wonder ended on a new song, “The Living Killing Life,” to shouts of “I love you Stevie” from the crowd.
H.E.R. gave a standout performance of her own when she returned to the stage later in the evening. She introduced her set a medley of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler),” continuing with “Hold On” and ending with her cover of Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way,” shredding on her signature Fender Stratocaster guitar. She also tore it up on the drums for “We Made It,” and briefly on the bass earlier in her set. She embedded the messages of Global Citizen into her music and her banter.
Getting into the spirit of the joint performances, Lovato and Lambert came together for a cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World,” for which the two were wearing matching pants. This came after Lovato’s spare yet wrenching version of “Anyone” accompanied only by piano, and before Lambert to shifted to his full band to perform “Superpower” with his patented moves.
Continuing the theme of joint performances, Wonder and Sheila E. jumped on stage with OneRepublic for their closing set to perform “This I Know.” Los Angeles is the last location for Global Citizen Live’s worldwide broadcast geared toward bringing attention to the organization’s mission: “A Recovery Plan for the World,” with the aim of ending COVID-19 and kickstarting global recovery. The campaign petitions world leaders, philanthropists and the private sector to make and prioritize commitments to climate change, famine and vaccine equity.
These messages were repeated in between performances by in-person appearances from a variety of celebrities from Joseph Gordon-Levitt to Maggie Q, JoJo, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and MJ Rodriguez. Also on hand were members of the Los Angeles Fire Department, speaking urgently about California wildfires, and local youth activists. There was also an array of taped appearances from an international collection of activists, politicians and celebrities. These were accompanied by distressing images of famine and climate crisis, plus statistics from around the world.
A far cry from a telethon, the global nature of the events and the level of star power, plus the financial and commitment responsibility not being on concertgoers and viewers gives the events a celebratory feel. This is ramped up by footage of the Global Citizen Festival from previous years and from the other cities, including the Fugees from New York and Christine and the Queens from Paris.
Post Global Citizen Live, the organization reports 60 million COVID-19 vaccines, 157 million trees, and $1.1 billion committed to climate, famine, and COVID-19 response efforts.