2016 City Parks Foundation Gala at SummerStage Honoring Ron Delsener- Feat. Bon Jovi, Idina Menzel, Paul Shaffer and the Park Rangers
by Dan Wright
Every year, the City Parks Foundation (CPF) awards someone who has a commitment to enriching New York City's culture. This year's award went to Ron Delsener who is one of the most influential promoters in the history of the music industry. From assisting the promoter of the Beatles' first outdoor concert back in '64 to working with artists like Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, Miles Davis, and Simon and Garfunkel, among others, he has had a long and amazing career. The gala began with David Moore, the Executive Chair of the CPF, auctioning off some some amazing items which raised almost $100,000 in funds that will be used for the parks and to fund things like the amazing SummerStage concerts in Central Park. After the auction he introduced Ron Delsener's wife who showed a wonderful video about his life and his work. Finally the man of the hour came out to thank all of the donors and artists that made this concert a possibility.
After the speeches the first group, Paul Shaffer and the Park Rangers, was introduced. This is a group of incredibly talented musicians who are clearly loving what they're doing. I was constantly being blown away by their talent and camaraderie. They played a couple of songs and just when I thought it couldn't get any better, David Sanborn (an amazing saxophone player) came out and tore the house down.
After the band played a few songs, they welcomed Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul & Mary) out onto the stage. I actually didn't recognize him, and this was echoed in the audience's half hearted cheers when he introduced himself, "I can tell by your cheering that you don't know who I am, well you'll recognize this song". We all definitely realized who he was when he began to play a gorgeous rendition of Blowin' In The Wind. He was extremely humble and was definitely just there to honor his friend, he never mentioned Peter, Paul & Mary, and just played his guitar. He poured his heart and soul into the song, giving one of the most emotional performances I've seen in a long time.
Finally, it was the moment that most of the crowd had been waiting for. As a testament to Ron Delsener's life and work, Jon Bon Jovi had flown in to play a single song. He walked out on stage and the crowd erupted. Bon Jovi played a really great acoustic version of Who Says You Can't Go Home. He started out softly, playing it very relaxed, and then right when we thought he was going to cut the song short and end it, he cues Paul Shaffer and the Park Rangers to come in and pick up the tempo, inspiring people sitting in $50,000 seats to jump out of their chairs, dance, and sing along. I know I wasn't the only one wishing he had played more than one song, and wondering why he didn't close the concert.
After Bon Jovi performed, Paul Shaffer welcomed Father Guido Sarducci (Don Nevello) to the stage. He told mostly political jokes (many about Trump), but closed with a very funny Beatles Medley that he "sang" a cappella.
Closing the show was Idina Menzel. As a former broadway actor I was very excited to hear her sing live. She began by kicking her shoes off and qualifying her song choice, "This has nothing to do with my feelings about Ron". I don't think I was the only one who was a little confused when she started singing Radiohead's Creep, but she pulled it off well and with as much emotion as one would expect form an actress of her caliber.