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Sting

Jay-Z headlining the Global Citizen Festival was always going to be a major drawcard. So too, the prospect of seeing No Doubt together again on stage, joined for a track by Sting. Adding Carrie Underwood, The Roots and Tiesto to the mix made Saturday’s line-up appealing enough to take on the Global Poverty Project’s initiatives to win tickets to their concert in Central Park. Beyond, of course, the aim itself of ending extreme poverty by 2030.

It made sense that Jay would have started his set with Empire State of Mind – as he did, after opening with a mash of Gil Scott-Heron’s NY You’re Bringing Me Down,  Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind, and Sinatra’s New York, New York.  But I didn’t expect just how magnificent the sound of 60 000 people singing along, hands up in the air, would be – an anthem for the Big Apple, performed live in the heart of the city that birthed its creator. A moment too big for even the fanciest of phone cameras to capture. So too, was Sting roping in No Doubt for Message in a Bottle, his voice harmonizing with Gwen Stefani’s, as that familiar bass-line reverberated through the trees, and the sliver of golden moon grew brighter against the backdrop of the NYC skyline. Ridiculously perfect.

I’d always hoped to see No Doubt perform live. Even before their wedded union, Gwen and hubby Gavin Rossdale, with his band Bush, together helped get me through many moments of teenage angst. I remember watching videos of Stefani jumping around the stage, sweat glistening from her perfectly-sculpted abs. Twenty years later, she wasn’t rolling around on the stage but the band still energetically spun through their back catalogue, from opener Hella Good to prize possession Don’t Speak and the ska-fuelled Hey Baby. Stephen Bradley on trumpet and keys helped keep that vibe lifted, literally jumping up and down all through the set.

When Jay took over the reigns, the hood of a Global Citizen Festival sweatshirt framing his face, he bounded through his hits, one after the other, Izzo (H.O.V.A), Big Pimpin’, I Just Wanna Love U, Tom Ford, in between thanking the crowd for coming out for “a beautiful cause.”

“If you believe in this movement, make some noiiiise,” he urged.

And the crowd obliged.

Jay’s was the only set that wasn’t interspersed with messages from Global Poverty Project ambassadors, Elmo or Hugh Jackman (oh, how we love Hugh) explaining the various problems exacerbating world poverty right now and what is being done to help, or the challenges being issued to world leaders and, in many cases, the positive responses issued to these. In between The Roots, fun. and Carrie Underwood, who all performed to fans who’d filled the park, were snippets of info and stats to go along with that. It helped the medicine, so to speak, go down a lot easier than the first year a concert was held when so many of the messages were dragged down by being too long and overwhelming.

Jay was impressing just fine, but then he pulled out the Bey card, and his wife came out to perform Holy Grail, singing, as she did on their On The Run tour together, the part of Justin Timberlake. If Central Park had a roof, it would have been blown off, such was the excitement at Beyonce’s arrival on stage. Together, they ended the show, once again, how they ended their tour, with Young Forever and images of their life together playing onscreen behind them. It was another one of those ridiculously perfect moments, when those 60 000 voices sang the Alphaville chorus, cellphones – and one or two lone lighters – illuminating the night sky.

Like, I said, ridiculously perfect.

What’s not perfect, as we know, is the state of the world right now. Many of the problems the Global Citizen Festival highlighted seem insurmountable, like the fact that 2.5 billion people in the world still don’t have access to proper toilets. But Saturday’s concert and the actions its presenters – from actress Olivia Wilde to Madiba’s grandson Ndaba Mandela – asked its audience to perform, made those problems feel a little less so. It’s like, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: “Our world needs solar power and wind power, but I believe in an even stronger source of energy – people power.” After this year’s Global Citizen Festival, I’m a believer too.

* U2 will be performing their Oscar-nominated track Ordinary Love, written for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Oscars ceremony on March 2nd. The band also spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about their new album and working with Madonna’s manager. It’s also just been announced Karen O, from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs will be performing Her‘s Moon Song too.

* Sting‘s musical, The Last Ship, now has a date for Broadway. Previews are set to begin from late September and opening night is October 26th. The musical will feature an original score by the 16-time Grammy winner. 

* David Fincher (The Social Network, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) will direct an American version of the British drama, Utopia, for HBO. Gone Girls author Gillian Flynn will write the script.

* Suzanne Vega namechecks Macklemore and samples 50 Cent in her new single, Don’t Uncork What You Can’t Contain. Her track Tom’s Diner has been sampled so many times before, it’s about time she repaid the favour. Listen to it here.

* He’s been credited with being one of TV’s first stars – comedian Sid Caesar died at the age of 91 at his home in Beverly Hills.

 

sting

* There are many reasons to look forward to Sting‘s forthcoming album – for one, he hasn’t given us a full album of original new music since 2003. For another, he’s created a musical to go along with it, The Last Ship. It’s about shipbuilding in the north of England but if anyone can make that lush, it’s Sting. And he’s working with Skyfall writer John Logan, and Joe Mantello, who directed Wicked. The music’s coming later this year, but the play will dock in 2014.

* He’s been in a gazillion movies (okay, about 180) but for the first time ever, Amitabh Bachchan will try his hand at acting in a TV series. The legendary Indian actor said he was a little nervous, but hey, the way TV is going right now, it’s the place to be – even for film stars.

* The late Michael Jackson’s daughter Paris is in hospital after what has been reported as a suicide attempt. If you follow MJ’s only daughter on Twitter, you’ll have seen her tweet lyrics from the song Yesterday, about ‘troubles being here to stay.’ The 15-year old is part of a multi-million dollar lawsuit brought by the Jackson family against the concert promoters AEG Live, who they believe are ultimately responsible for MJ’s death.

* Meanwhile, British comedian Stephen Fry has revealed that he attempted suicide last year, while filming abroad. He said he had decided to speak out about the suicide attempt as part of his role as president of the British mental health charity Mind. Courageous move on his part.

* Here’s to Jack White, who has saved a pivotal music venue in Detroit – the Masonic Temple, where Jimi Hendrix, The Who and the Rolling Stones performed. This comes after news that Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey, where Nirvana played and Bruce Springsteen filmed a music video, is closing down in July.