Hurricane Henri shuts down New York City's star-studded 'homecoming' concert

The Central Park show, pitched as a marker of recovery after Covid-19, was cut short because of severe weather threat

New York City shut down a star-studded concert meant to mark its "homecoming" after the pandemic's worst devastation, over the threat of severe weather as Hurricane Henri churned closer on Saturday.

Barry Manilow, who was on a line-up that included Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith and Paul Simon, was cut off mid-song by a booming voice urging concert goers to proceed to the nearest exit due to approaching storm clouds.

“Due to approaching severe weather, all persons should move quickly and calmly to the nearest exit and proceed to your vehicles and protected areas outside of the event site. Please seek shelter for your safety,” an announcement said.

Scroll through the gallery above for images from We Love NYC: The Homecoming Concert.

Some 60,000 people were expected at the concert in Central Park, as the hurricane, packing maximum sustained winds near 120 kilometres per hour and heavy rains, was drawing closer to making landfall sometime on Sunday.

It cut short a show that began with groups of revellers cheering and dancing, with seating marked out by laying down picnic blankets before five hours of live music that kicked off at 5pm local time.

Carlos Santana, LL Cool J, Jennifer Hudson and Earth, Wind and Fire were among the big-name acts that were able to perform before the event was shut down.

Even before the bad weather hit, many were concerned about Covid-19, despite vaccination requirements.

All attendees aged 12 and over had to provide proof of vaccination, except for those considered not eligible for shots. Masks were not required at the outdoor event, except for unvaccinated children.

Speaking on local radio on Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the concert was meant as a marker of recovery.

The celebration was planned "to really tell people New York City was back, to tell the whole world," he said.

“This is a celebration of our city, of every working family who faced incredible challenges last year and overcame,” de Blasio said in a statement last month while announcing details of the concert. “This is a celebration for you.”

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

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

Except for VIP spots, tickets were free for Saturday's concert.

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

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

But the threat of bad weather cast a pall over the revelry even before the event was cut off, as US meteorologists upgraded storm Henri to a hurricane on Saturday.

Mayor de Blasio later tweeted later that while he was disappointed the show couldn't go on, the safety of attendees was a priority.

"While it's disappointing that tonight's concert had to end early, the safety of everyone in attendance had to come first. To everyone who came out tonight: thank you. Thank you for showing the world that New York City is coming back stronger than ever before," he posted on Twitter.

His office later declared a State of Emergency for New York City.

– Additional reporting by AFP

Updated: August 22nd 2021, 5:16 AM