Hit songs and surprise guests rock the crowd at a mighty concert in Charlottesville
On Sunday night in Charlottesville, tens of thousands cheered, danced and held lit iPhones as an impressive roster of superstars lent their voices to uplift the community after a difficult month.
The crowd that filled Scott Stadium during A concert for Charlottesville, produced by Live Nation, Starr Hill Presents and the University of Virginia and hosted by hometown favorite Dave Matthews Band, already knew it would see superstars like Pharrell Williams, Justin Timberlake, Ariana Grande, Chris Stapleton, Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes, The Roots and Cage the Elephant. They got an extra surprise when Coldplay bandmates Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland showed up, and when megastar Stevie Wonder closed the night.
“It really is the example that love can win,” Wonder said as he joined Matthews onstage to cheers and smiling above the stadium. He urged the crowd, “Use your gift, your song, your musical sense, your voice to spread the endless cry of love.”
This is exactly what the impressive list of artists assembled by Matthews did. All volunteered their time and traveled from across the country and around the world to support the communities of Charlottesville and the University following the violent white supremacist protests on August 11-12. They’ve played in front of thousands of people at Scott Stadium, and many more are watching the direct in line.
Although tickets are free, attendees were encouraged to donate to the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation’s “Concert for Charlottesville Fund.” This fund will benefit victims of violence and their families, first responders and organizations dedicated to promoting equality and tolerance.
Concert attendees said the event was a great way for the community to come together after the violence this weekend.
“I think it’s important, after what happened in August, for everyone to unite under the music, which we can all relate to and love,” said Brian Zuluaga, a sophomore at UVA, while waiting outside the stadium with three friends.
Mythryl Thomas, a local high school student, agreed.
“Music is just a great way to bring the community together,” she said.
“I feel like we need that kind of joy in Charlottesville right now,” Thomas’ classmate Gabby Safley added.
“It gives us something positive to do, something where everyone is in a good mood, coming together for a positive thing,” local resident Karla Fulcher said.
Matthews opened the concert, addressing the crowd as he took the stage for their first song. The gig was a poignant comeback for Matthews and his band, who began playing clubs and bars a few miles from Scott Stadium.
The concert was also a kind of reunion. UVA music faculty member John D’Earth, who mentored Matthews while he lived in Charlottesville, and Butch Taylor, the band’s keyboardist and vocalist from 1997 to 2008, joined the band for parts of the show.
“Charlottesville is the place that welcomed me. This is where I met my band. Charlottesville is a hopeful place. It has a difficult history, but so does much of the world. This place is such a good place, it’s so full of love and it’s so hopeful. We want to help each other and help each other,” Matthews told the crowd. “Thank you so much for coming here so we can make a big splash in the name of love.”
Dave Matthews Band has a long history of giving back to the Charlottesville community. Their Bama Works Fund, administered in partnership with the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation, has provided more than $40 million in contributions to local charities since its inception in 1991. A benefit concert held at John Paul Jones Arena in honor of the band’s 25th anniversary raised over a million dollars in a single night.
After performing a song, Matthews handed over the stage to Susan Bro, mother of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was killed Aug. 12 when an alleged white supremacist from Ohio drove his car into a crowd downtown after the rally. Scattered. Heyer and two Virginia State Police officers, H. Jay Cullen and Berke Bates, lost their lives that day. The officers died in a helicopter crash.
“By raising our voices against hate and for unity, you are helping to carry on Heather’s legacy. You make Heather’s death matter and her all-too-brief life matter even more,” Bro said. “So tonight, sing with all your heart, feel the music and fill the void left by those we’ve lost.”
Rock band Cage The Elephant took to the stage after Bro’s remarks, unleashing a megawatt lineup that delighted audiences of all ages.
Highlights included a surprise performance from Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland, Coldplay’s lead singer and lead guitarist respectively. They arrived after their Seattle tour date and performed four songs.
Hip-hop group The Roots, popular house band from “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”, performed with Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes and also collaborated with Pharrell Williams.
“When I think of the potential of this country, the potential of this state, the potential of these people, the potential of this incredible, incredible university, there is only one word that comes to mind,” said Williams, a Virginia Beach native. said before immediately launching into his 2013 hit “Happy,” an upbeat song that had the whole stadium cheering.
As the sun set over Scott Stadium, the shots kept coming. Country crooner Chris Stapleton performed five of his most popular songs, ending with his soulful ballad, “Tennessee Whiskey.”
Pop star Ariana Grande picked up the tempo with songs from her latest album, “Dangerous Woman.” As Matthews noted when he introduced the singer, this wasn’t Grande’s first big benefit concert of the year. On May 22, 2017, a terrorist detonated a bomb after Grande’s concert in Manchester, UK. Twenty-two people were killed and many more injured. Grande returned to Manchester just weeks after the attack to stage a massive benefit concert that raised more than $13 million for the victims and their families.
“Thank you so much for coming together. I wanted to say how proud I am to be part of a generation so passionate about creating change,” Grande said as she took the stage, fresh from the final performance of her tour, in Hong Kong, a few days ago “Keep using your voices and make this place a safer place for each other, celebrate each other and our differences.”
After Grande, Timberlake took to the stage, electrifying the crowd with some of his most popular hits, including the single “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”
Timberlake told the crowd that he hopes his young son, Silas, will one day be proud to have his father be a part of this performance.
“I know in 15, 20, 30 years he will see this somewhere and he will remember it, and you will remember it,” he said. “Give yourself a round of applause for making history.
After Timberlake, the full Dave Matthews Band returned to close the show and give the audience perhaps the biggest surprise of the night. For the last songs of the concert, Matthews hosted none other than Stevie Wonder.
Wonder – whose 25 Grammy Awards made him one of the most awarded solo artists of all time – performed three songs with Dave Matthews Band, including two of his own hits, ‘Superstition’ and ‘Love’s in Need of Love Today “. A third song, a powerful rendition of John Lennon’s call for peace, “Imagine,” summed up the night beautifully.
Wonder left the audience with a farewell injunction.
“To make a difference, we have to be the difference,” he said. “One of my favorite sayings is, ‘Don’t talk about it; be about it.’ What are you talking about ? What are we talking about tonight?
If Matthews and the rest of the impressive line-up he’s assembled get their wish, that question — and the moments of joy and peace the night has provided — will linger long after the lights go out.