New York expects thousands for star-studded concert

New York (AFP) –


Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith and Paul Simon are set to headline a massive Central Park concert Saturday meant to signal New York City's "homecoming" in the wake of the pandemic's worst devastation there.

But a hurricane heading towards the US east coast along with a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases due to the highly contagious Delta variant threatened to dampen spirits at the star-studded event, expected to host some 60,000 people.

All attendees aged 12 and over must provide proof of vaccination, except for those prevented from getting shots for reasons of disability. Masks will not be required at the outdoor event except for unvaccinated children.

Speaking on local radio on Friday Mayor Bill de Blasio said the celebration was planned "to really tell people in New York City was back, to tell the whole world."

The pandemic hit New York hard in early 2020, and has left more than 33,000 people dead.

De Blasio said the concert was aimed as a marker of recovery.

"I think it's going to be one of those signature moments that just tells everyone we are back and we're going to fight through this, no matter what," the mayor said.

The Brooklyn-raised veteran music producer Clive Davis curated the lineup of the five-hour event, which will also be broadcast live on television.

- Henri threats -

In the week leading up to Saturday's show the city hosted a series of hip hop concerts across the New York boroughs, featuring performances from Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick, KRS-1, and Wu-Tang Clan members Ghostface Killah and Raekwon.

Earth, Wind and Fire perform a soundcheck in New York's Central Park a day before the"We Love NYC: The Homecoming Concert"
Earth, Wind and Fire perform a soundcheck in New York's Central Park a day before the"We Love NYC: The Homecoming Concert" TIMOTHY A. CLARY AFP

The legendary George Clinton & The P-Funk All Stars also performed in Queens on Friday night.

Except for VIP spots, tickets are free for Saturday's concert, which will also feature performances from Santana, Jennifer Hudson, LL Cool J and Barry Manilow.

Some 68 percent of adult New Yorkers are fully vaccinated, though cases have ticked up recently to more than 1,850 a day, a 19 percent increase in two weeks.

The unvaccinated population continues to face the highest risks of both contracting the virus and suffering its worst effects.

Meanwhile, US meteorologists upgraded storm Henri to a hurricane on Saturday, predicting landfall on the US east coast on Sunday.

Henri was anticipated to miss New York City by miles, but could still cause tropical storm conditions beginning Saturday night.

"We feel good about the weather in terms of the concert Saturday," de Blasio said on Friday. "We think we can get the whole thing in.

"I think it's going to be something extraordinary."