For a total of three decades, the human rights non-governmental organization (NGO) Amnesty International has served to challenge both global and domestic issues involving injustices, torture and the violation of the rights of political prisoners. In addition, the international organization has also served to construct campaigns around these issues and raise awareness through artistic means by procuring strong relationships with musicians. In a total of six business days, Amnesty International put together one of the most extraordinary concerts New York City has seen recently. Located in the heart of Brooklyn, the Barclays Center housed some of the most profiled and adorned artists of the decade. From The Flaming Lips’ and The Fray’s exuberant entrance on the red carpet to the highly anticipated appearance of members of unjustly imprisoned punk group Pussy Riot, Amnesty surely outdid itself by compiling this event.
Again, within six days Amnesty got this arena packed to the gills. Cold War Kids did their fun, neo-bluesy thing, kicking off a serious-minded event with serious energy. Colbie Callat sang her cottony soft country tunes, but was able to effortlessly add in some funky guitars and vocals on “Brighter Than The Sun.” In between acts, speakers like Susan Sarandon and Sean Lennon made short, inspiring speeches; and videos were shown of the lives of people who suffer at the hand of terror and inequality. But mostly it was about the music, presented in quick sets.
The Fray of course did that “How To Save A Life” song. Then the real biggies started flowing, if not like wine, than bubbly soda all night. Lauryn Hill, Tegan And Sara, Cake, Yoko Ono and Bob Geldof (of course) all played inspired sets. Blondie got their hometown fans going with a few faves like “Call Me” and a new tune too. Imagine Dragons busted out with a massive display of the energy that has them flying high right now. Yes, there were some technical glitches along the way, but again, six days to get this together folks. Did the Flaming Lips have to cobble together their usual flashy art-tastic stage display? A bit. Was Madonna’s intorduction for the Pussy Riot members a little odd? A little. But overall, of course, the intentions were of the highest sort, and the bands all played their hearts out.
The coming together of a wide range of artists from all sorts of genres to play under one roof not only symbolizes the great impact of public figures voicing strong opinions against global injustices, but also proves that music can truly serve as a universal medium to unite all types of people in solidarity, regardless of their political, social, economic, racial or cultural backgrounds. What a night of electric energy, all harnessed to celebrate and raise awareness of the voices silenced by human rights abuses abroad and at home.
Live photos by Adela Loconte; backstage photos by Nancy Musinguzi.