Musicians, Al Gore urge fans to fight warming at Live Earth events

Sunday, July 8, 2007
Henry Shearer of spoof British band Spinal Tap performed on stage Saturday during the British leg of the Live Earth concerts at London's Wembley Stadium. The concert is part of a series of events taking place in the United States, Australia, China, Japan, Brazil, South Africa and Antarctica. (ANTHONY HARVEY ~ Associated Press)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A 24-hour music marathon spanning seven continents Saturday reached the Western Hemisphere with rappers, rockers and country stars taking the stage at Live Earth concerts to fight climate change.

The New York show, which was actually in Giants Stadium in New Jersey, opened with the artist Kenna asking the crowd of 52,000: "You guys realize we're a part of history now?"

With other shows in London, Sydney, Tokyo, Kyoto, Shanghai, Hamburg, Johannesburg, Rio de Janeiro -- and even a performance by a five-piece band of scientists beamed from a research station in Antarctica -- organizers promised the biggest musical event ever staged, dwarfing the Live Aid and Live 8 concerts.

Live Earth venues featured aboriginal elders, virtual-reality performers, a holographic Al Gore and more than 100 of the biggest names in music -- including Madonna, the Police and Kanye West -- who sought to raise awareness about climate change. The concerts are backed by Gore, whose campaign to force global warming onto the international political stage inspired the event.

Wembley Stadium

U.S. band Beastie Boys performed on stage Saturday during the British leg of the Live Earth concerts at London's Wembley Stadium. (ANTHONY HARVEY ~ Associated Press)

Madonna flaunted her eco-friendly side as she headlined an eclectic show at London's newly rebuilt Wembley Stadium that included the Beastie Boys, the Pussycat Dolls and the Black Eyed Peas.

The drummers from Queen, the Foo Fighters and the Red Hot Chili Peppers began the London concert, leading a battery of percussion set to flashing images of endangered animals, landfill heaps, wind farms and the Earth seen from space.

The crowd immediately rose to its feet as the reunited Genesis used its hit "Land of Confusion" to send an environmental message, with Phil Collins urging fans to make the world "a place worth living in."

Gore made a live video appearance from Washington to open the first show on the other side of the world in Sydney. He took the technology a step further a few hours later, appearing onstage in Tokyo as a hologram.

"Global warming is the greatest challenge facing our planet, and the gravest we've ever faced," said Gore, who in his holographic appearance wore the only suit in sight.

"But it's one problem we can solve if we come together as one and take action and drive our neighbors, businesses and governments to act as well. That's what Live Earth is all about."

Balancing act

Organizers promised the huge shows were made green by using recycled goods and buying carbon credits to offset the inevitable high power bills.

Critics say that Live Earth lacks achievable goals, and that jet-setting rock stars whose amplifier stacks chew through power may send mixed messages about energy conservation. On her tour last year, Madonna produced an estimated 485 tons of carbon dioxide in four months, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported.

In Sydney, an estimated 50,000 people grooved through a set by former professional surfer-cum singer-guitarist Jack Johnson, banged their heads to afro-haired 1970s retro rockers Wolfmother, and gave a re-formed Crowded House a rapturous homecoming.

Neil Finn, the singer-guitarist who penned the band's 1987 breakthrough "Don't Dream It's Over," said Saturday's event drew a line in the sand for rock concerts: From now on, offsetting the carbon emissions caused by powering big shows must be factored into the cost of putting them on.

Country stars Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood opened the concert in Washington with a rendition of "We Shall Be Free."

Asia and Australia

The Tokyo concert kicked off with a high-tech, laser- and light-drenched performance by virtual-reality act Genki Rockets. Later, popular Japanese singer Ayaka urged fans to take up the concerts' theme of changing their daily habits as a first step to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.

In Shanghai, a lineup of largely local acts was joined by British singer Sarah Brightman. The show was less a concert than a made-for-television event, with an audience of just 3,000, seated on bleachers arranged before the riverside Oriental Pearl television tower.

Aboriginal tribal leaders with white-painted bodies and shaking eucalyptus fronds were the first to take the stage in Sydney, singing and dancing a traditional welcome to the sounds of a didgeridoo, a wind pipe made from a hollow tree branch.

The shows appeared to come off without major hitches despite some 11th-hour planning. The concert in Washington was added Friday, and a Brazilian judge rejected a last-minute bid to shut down South America's Live Earth concert after a prosecutor had argued safety could not be guaranteed for an audience of 700,000 on Rio's Copacabana beach.

Bob Geldof, who organized the Live Aid and Live 8 anti-poverty concerts, thought Gore's energies were misplaced.

"I hope they're a success," Geldof said. "But why is he [Gore] actually organizing them? To make us aware of the greenhouse effect? Everybody's known about that problem for years. We are all ... conscious of global warming."

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