Pharrell Williams took the crowd by storm amid the glowing red lights of the Global Citizen Hamburg Festival stage on Thursday night.
He rocked out in a tye-dye pink shirt as the audience clapped on beat and the rhythms of "Lose Yourself to Dance" began to fill the arena.
"And that is the sound of change in 2017," Pharrell said after massive applause when he finished his first song of the night.
The 10-time Grammy award-winning artist then followed with his new Calvin Harris and Katy Perry hit, "Feels." After, it was time for the global number one hits, “Blurred Lines,” and “Get Lucky.”
Tunisian-Austrian actor Elyas M'Barek welcomed Williams after three female CEOs, Elizabeth Vazquez, WeConnect International, Diana Oviedo, PrintsLab, Larissa Zeichhardt, LAT Gruppe,announced that IBM, Intel, and Pfizer will invest $300 million into women-owned businesses over the next three years — perfect timing for the feminist advocate to take the stage.
The recent father of triplets is a long-time supporter of girls and women, education, and is also a big believer in the power of activism, as demonstrated by his speech tonight.
In 2014, he released a new album titled G I R L and since then he has been advocating for women’s rights both onstage and offstage.
Earlier this year in May, he delivered a graduation speech at New York University, where he said he believes that this is the first generation that understands how important it is to empower women.
“Imagine the possibilities when we remove imbalance from the ether. Imagine the possibilities when women are not held back,” he said.
Now Williams is speaking out to international leadership. On Wednesday, he encouraged other countries to be global leaders and for Germany to continue its strong leadership.
“We need more nations to be like Germany,” he told NRD 2 on Wednesday at the Barclaycard arena in Hamburg. “They’re the leaders right now.”
He added that performing during the week of the G20 is a chance to perform for a real reason — in a moment that will truly make a difference.
“Here’s the thing,” Williams continued. “Usually we just make music because we make music, but now we get a chance to actually perform it for a real reason. This is something that’s going to power a bigger cause.”
But Williams has been involved in bigger causes for nearly a decade. In 2008, he founded From One Hand To AnOTHER (FOHTA), a nonprofit focused on creative learning opportunities for underserved youth in at-risk communities across the nation.
For two years, Williams has partnered with the United Nations Foundation on the International Day of Happiness to inspire Global Citizens all over the world to celebrate their own meaning of “happy.”
"Let's show everybody what ending extreme poverty looks like tonight," he said onstage. "Global Citizens can you do that?"
Thousands of global citizens in the arena roared back in a powerful moment that declared passionately that, yes, extreme poverty can be defeated.
"I got a feeling that we're actually gonna pull this off," he said before turning to ask the audience what they think about extreme poverty. The crowd answers with loud boos.
But then Williams began to inspire as he told the audience he needed their support. Slowly, Williams pulled one "lucky" member from the audience onto stage, and then, more and more global citizens began to join him as he belted an unforgettable rendition of "Freedom."
And with that, Williams truly just delivered the sound of change at Global Citizen Festival Hamburg.
Ramon Haindl/Global Citizen