As we settled into an unfortunately cold and rainy bit of weather, this also signaled the end of the 2016 Central Park Summerstage season. Leave it to them to go out with a bang, as they teamed up with Capital One to offer a fond farewell to all their supporters with a free concert to cardholders, featuring performance powerhouses Nate Ruess and Janelle Monae.
Fans lined up well in advance of the doors to get a good spot on the lush AstroTurf to see the performance, holding beers and shoveling tacos down their throats to help temper the feelings of anticipation. DJ Moma also helped to keep the crowd buzzing, playing a varied set list that ranged from Drake to African rhythms that floated across the space.
Starting off the night, Nate Ruess took the stage with a drink in hand and a huge smile on his face. He was clearly ready to give his all to the soggy crowd, and all those within earshot definitely had a wonderful time. Working his way back and forth across the stage and on top of the stack of speakers more than once, the fun. singer sang passionately about love, with selections from his 2015 release, Grand Romantic, as well as some covers of Pink’s “Just Give Me A Reason,” and Elton John’s “Rocketman.” Of course, he couldn’t go without singing the one song that is still stuck in everyone’s heads after all these years – “We Are Young.” No matter what your singing ability is, everyone just had to try to hit those high notes in the chorus. I’m sure Nate heard everyone’s attempts and laughed about it on the inside.
With a short interlude from DJ Moma to keep the crowd warm, and a backdrop and stage change over to her signature black and white, Janelle Monae was ceremoniously wheeled out onstage on what looked to be a hand truck by one of her hype men. Standing stone still, Miss Monae, wearing suspenders with her black flared skirt, crisp white button down shirt, and a wooly jacket, made complete by a pair of wiry bug-eyed sunglasses, opened her mouth and sang beautifully, easily winning the crowd over with her smooth, buttery vocals.
Working the stage, she showed everyone exactly why she has been dubbed “The Electric Lady.” When the set list landed on “Q.U.E.E.N.” the crowd took over singing duties, especially since Erykah Badu wasn’t around to sing her part of the song. As the rain began to fall heavier, she didn’t ease up, keeping the crowd engaged with covers of James Brown’s “I Got You(I Feel Good)”, The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” and a stirring tribute to Prince with a cover of “Let’s Go Crazy,” that found us all singing about slipping on purple bananas under the cloudy skies.
The weather couldn’t put a damper on the night, clearly. A healthy round of applause marked another successful season of Summerstage. Can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next year.
Article: Lesley Keller