Foo Fighters, The Black Keys, Neil Young Rock Central Park for Global Citizen Fest: Concert Review

Global Citizen Festival - Neil Young
Getty Images
An all-star lineup, including Band of Horses, John Legend and K'Naan, delivers a hard rocking free show to spotlight the issue of extreme poverty.

As musically vital as it was socially meaningful, Saturday night’s Global Citizen Festival represented the hardest rock show to hit Central Park’s Great Lawn in years. Featuring Neil Young, Foo Fighters, the Black Keys, Band of Horses and K’Naan, the five-hour show thrilled the roughly 60,000 attendees packed into the park on a beautiful if forbidding autumn night.

Designed to spotlight global poverty and myriad other social issues, the show also featured an array of talking heads, ranging from scientists, philanthropists and activists to such politically minded celebs as Katie Couric, Olivia Wilde, Selena Gomez, Archie Panjabi and Sophia Bush.

Somali/Canadian rapper K’Naan kicked off the proceedings with his unique brand of African-inflected, politically-tinged hip-hop. He was followed by Band of Horses, whose set, featuring such songs as “Knock Knock,” “Great Salt Lake” and “The Funeral,” was marked by lead singer Ben Bridwell’s self-effacing comments and clear exuberance at participating.

“Even if you don’t know who we are, I just want to thank you for listening to us,” he enthused.

PHOTOS: 10 Grammy Greats 

In a surprise appearance, John Legend sat down at a grand piano and delivered an impassioned rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” made all the more moving by the fact that it was being performed not too far from the park’s “Strawberry Fields” memorial to the late musician.

The Black Keys delivered a hard-charging set displaying their brand of bluesy rock. Featuring such songs as “Howlin’ for You,” “Money Maker,” “Lonely Boy” and “I Got Mine,” its impact was magnified by the darkening sky filled with ominous clouds threatening a rain that thankfully never came.

Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl was clearly energized by the momentousness of the event, announcing, "I’m not playing for you, I’m playing with you." He began by performing the first part of "Times Like These" solo -- "I wrote this song for nights like this," he said -- before the rest of the band (bassist Nate Mendel, drummer Taylor Hawkins and guitarists Pat Smear and Chris Shiflett) kicked in.

STORY: Foo Fighters Return to Pukkelpop Festival One Year After Stage Collapse

The set featured such songs as “Learn to Fly,” These Days,” “Walk,” “Best of You” and “My Hero,” the latter of which included  audience participation in the form of an exuberant sing-along.

At one point Grohl ominously announced, “We don’t have any shows after this ... I don't know when we'll see you but we'll see you." But before Foos fans get their panties in a break-up bunch, it's worth noting that, typically, the band takes one or two years off from touring between albums.

Neil Young and his reunited Crazy Horse finished off the night with a typically powerful 70-minute set featuring a barrage of blistering guitar solos. Besides such classics as “Love and Only Love,” “Powderfinger,” “The Needle and the Damage Done” and “Fuckin’ Up,” it also included the new songs “Ontario” and “Walk Like a Giant” that blended in easily.

“We’re joining forces up here,” announced Young at the show’s conclusion, in which he was joined by the rest of the evening’s formidable line-up for a crowd-stirring “Rockin’ in the Free World.”

Set List:

Neil Young and Crazy Horse

Love and Only Love
Born in Ontario
Walk Like A Giant
The Needle and the Damage Done
Twisted Road
F--kin’ Up
Rockin’ in the Free World

Foo Fighters

Times Like These
All My Life
My Hero
Learn To Fly
These Days
Best of You

The Black Keys

Howlin’ For You
Next Girl
Run Right Back
Same Old Thing
Dead and Gone
Little Black Submarine
Money Maker
Strange Times
Nova Baby
She’s Long Gone
Tighten Up
Gold On The Ceiling
Lonely Boy
I Got Mine
Twitter: @THRMusic