It was toward the end of Carrie Underwood’s performance when someone ran up to me to ask when Tiësto would be performing. He was shocked when I told him the artist had opened the show at 4pm. “I thought he would be headlining!” The fact that the first performer was a Grammy Award-winner who has been named #1 DJ on many a list shows how impressive the lineup was. But with an event as huge as the Global Citizen Festival, there are some perks to being the opening act.
The famed Dutch DJ had the opportunity to feed off a lot of suspense and unspent energy. The sun was scorching and the solo cups were already draining as everyone revved up for a big night. Where there is a live national broadcast, there is a raucous countdown, and this one was particularly spirited. As the cheers drowned out numbers 2, 1, and 0, Tiësto took the stage and gave them what they wanted.
The crowd began to bounce in the sticky heat, stirring up a cloud of grass, dust, and rowdy laughter. Tiësto’s supercharged setlist included “Footprints,” “Red Lights,” “All of Me (John Legend remix),” and “Wasted,” all interlaced with clean transitions and squeal-worthy impact moments. It may have been a little early for EDM, but Tiësto got the festival rolling with a quick shot of adrenaline.
What it definitely wasn’t too early for was the unique collision of jazz, neo soul, and alternative hip-hop that can only be the sound of the Roots. The old school jammers and NBC regulars are known for their years on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and their current role as the Tonight Show’s house band.
With simmering brass and sax behind Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter’s sturdy delivery, they launched into a setlist that included “The Fire,” “Water No Get Enemy (Fela Kuti cover),” “Distortion to Static,” and “Move On Up (Curtis Mayfield cover).” Their cover of Fela Kuti’s “Water No Get Enemy” was particularly powerful in the context of the Global Citizen Festival. The song depicts the struggle of not having clean water, and was an excellent choice for a day focused on ending extreme poverty. If anyone in the audience had somehow escaped the excitement of Tiësto’s set, the Roots definitely got them fired up for change.