For this writer and perhaps the thousands in attendance for the taping of VAX LIVE: The Concert to Reunite the World on Sunday (May 2) at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., memories of a life before the pandemic came rushing back. As the first major event before a COVID-19 compliant audience in Los Angeles, the star-studded event treated fully vaccinated staff, talent, and concert-goers — which included frontline workers decked out in their scrubs — to live entertainment once again. Hosted by international advocacy organization Global Citizen, the concert special was part of a global campaign to boost confidence in the vaccine and rally for equity in distribution around the world. Co-founder and CEO, Hugh Evans, also announced that Global Citizen had exceeded its goal and secured $53.8 million from philanthropists and corporate companies to procure over 10 million doses.
It would be remiss to celebrate the possibility of a vaccinated future for all without acknowledging that many people in India, South Africa, and other parts of the world are unable to get their shots as quickly as those in the U.S. South African actress Nomzamo Mbatha pulled up receipts during the show, pointing out how the U.S. delivered 15 million doses while only one percent of South Africa received roughly 10,000 doses last week with many who may not receive the vaccine until 2023. Meanwhile, the death toll in India continues to rise with many families facing another wave of the virus and the country being forced back into lockdown with limited medical supplies and overwhelmed healthcare centers.
Prince Harry made an appearance to drive the point home. “The virus does not respect borders and access to the vaccine cannot be determined by geography,” said the Duke of Sussex, who served as campaign chair of the event alongside his wife and Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle. “It must be accepted as a basic right for all and that is our starting point. None of us should be comfortable with thinking that we could be fine while so many others are suffering.”
Other celebrities and public figures lent their voices to the event, issuing a call-to-action to governments, countries, and drug companies to share their doses at cost for a fair and equitable distribution system. Talent included host Selena Gomez, Sean Penn, Pope Francis, President Joe Biden, and First Lady Jill Biden, Olivia Munn, Chrissy Teigen among others. There was also some levity in the message with humor from Ben Affleck, a Robin suit-clad Jimmy Kimmel and David Letterman, who introduced his rockstar pals, the Foo Fighters.
Below is a recap of the memorable musical moments from last night’s event. Tune into the global broadcast airing on Saturday, May 8 on ABC, ABC News Live, CBS, YouTube, iHeartMedia broadcast radio stations, and the iHeartRadio App, starting at 8:00 PM ET/PT, 7:00 PM CT.
Jennifer Lopez performs a karaoke bar classic
For those who may have witnessed Jennifer Lopez’s extravagant It’s My Party tour a lifetime ago in 2019, it’s no secret that J.Lo likes to show out any time she grabs a mic. In three minutes, Global Citizen’s stage crew built a shimmering forest as Jenny’s mise en scène for the show’s opening performance: a cover of Neil Diamond’s 1969 hit, “Sweet Caroline. She even brought out her mother, Lupe, for a sweet rendition — and reunion between mother and daughter after not spending last Christmas together for the first time due to COVID. While the song choice may seem random, Lopez shared the family history attached to the beloved pub tune. “When I was thinking about what song to sing tonight, I remembered the song [my mom] always used to sing to me when I was a baby,” she said. As if rehearsed, Lupe and attendees alike indulged Lopez and sang along.
Eddie Vedder brings the nostalgia
The Pearl Jam frontman warmed up the crowd with two nostalgic offerings in the form of “Corduroy” off the band’s 1994 Vitalogy album and “I Am a Patriot. “This is a feeling we have not had in quite some time,” Vedder said. “It feels good.”
H.E.R. shares the stage
A week after grabbing an Oscar to add to her growing collection of accolades, H.E.R. took her talents and guitar to the stadium parking lot to perform “Glory” as vaccines were being administered on-site. In a bedazzled Tupac shirt, the singer also rocked out alongside 200 students and their guitars from the Los Angeles Unified Fender music program.
J Balvin delivers las vibras para el mundo
Atop a makeshift planet, J Balvin created a spacey spectacle as he performed his “Otra Noche Sin Ti” (without collaborator Khalid) and his quarantine-made gem, “Tu Veneno.” He also gave a personal anecdote about his struggles in lockdown. “Last year, I experienced my own personal battle with COVID-19 and I can only say it’s not something you would ever want to get,” he said. “So the simple answer is to get vaccinated for yourself and your loved ones.” Balvin also has another reason: the Medellin rep recently announced that he and his girlfriend, Valentina Ferrer, are expecting a child. He told VIBE backstage that the pandemic was the cause of his fatherhood. “Quarantine was the reason straight up,” he laughs. “When my son is gonna be older, I’m gonna be like, ‘That’s what happened, Yo, quarantine.’ I’m really grateful and a little scared because it’s a big responsibility. I’m a conscious guy and I want him to be happy and a good human.”
Jennifer Lopez shows love to a West Coast darling
Backed by a squad of dancers in rainbow-colored suits who waved flags that read “Love” and “Unity,” Lopez returned to the stage for a vibrant finale of “Ain’t Yo Mama.” In typical J.Lo fashion, she switched up the tempo with a dance break to Saweetie’s “Pretty Bi**h Freestyle,” which samples the 2000 smash “Whoa!” from late rapper Black Rob.
The Foo Fighters end the night with a “f**kin’ rock concert” and a special guest
After a charming introduction from Dave Letterman, the Foo Fighters closed out the festivities by putting on their own mini-concert. “We’re flying by the seat of our pants,” said frontman Dave Grohl after performing a few favorites including “All My Life,” “Everlong” and “Times Like These.” “We’re gonna keep going ’till they kick us off.” During their 40-minute set, Grohl also brought out rock god and “good friend” Brian Johnson from AC/DC for a special performance of “Back in Black.” The Foo Fighters then hosted a sing-along to “My Heroes” dedicated to the frontline workers and closed on a high note with “Best of You.” “We ain’t out of the woods yet but let me tell you I am a firm believer in the idea that music should be shared with people,” said Grohl, who said he had dreamt of his return to the stage. “So let’s work as hard as we can to make sure we can do this every f**king night for the rest of our lives.”