The South African leg of the Live Earth climate change concert series staged at Johannesburg's Coca-Cola Dome today (July 7) featured sets from reggae stalwarts UB40, Soweto Gospel Choir, indie rocker
The South African leg of the Live Earth climate change concert series staged at Johannesburg's Coca-Cola Dome today (July 7) featured sets from reggae stalwarts UB40, Soweto Gospel Choir, indie rockers the Parlotones, as well as a show-stealing performance from U.K. soul singer Joss Stone.
While the lineup offered just nine acts, the 10,000-strong audience claimed by promoters lent it an intimacy enhanced by the crowd's crossover make-up. In a country where big concerts usually attract racially specific audiences, this was the most outstanding feature of Live Earth Johannesburg.
Show openers the Soweto Gospel Choir teamed with R&B singer Danny K and drummers from Johannesburg-based Drum Cafe for a version of Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo's "Homeless."
That set the tone for the lineup, which mixed traditional-influences artists, like Afro-folk singer and songwriter Vusi Mahlasela, Benin-born singer Angelique Kidjo and Senegal's worldbeat star Baaba Maal with the Parlotones' indie rock and Danny K's urban R&B.
Maal's performance located the show firmly in Africa. Using fabric draping and African pots, Maal was explosive in a set high on percussion solos and sassy dancing. Homegrown television and kwaito (urban township) star Zola turned in a slim set that was rapturously received. He was followed by the Parlotones, whose indie rock took flight with songs like "Colourful."
Mahlasela, who is signed to Dave Matthews ATO label, slowed proceedings down with an acoustic set that, through songs like "When You Come Back," provided a bridge between the anti-apartheid struggle and Live Earth's "climate in crisis" theme. Kidjo provided the musical link between Mahlasela and Stone, joining the former for a duet during his set and being accompanied by the U.K. singer during her part of the show.
Reggae stalwarts UB40 may have closed Live Earth with a lengthy set that was high on the hits ("Kingston Town," "Red Red Wine"), but Stone more than lived up to expectations in her first public performance in South Africa. Barefoot and in a dress that defied the winter cold that many blamed the low attendance on, Stone poured her heart into a set that ended with the huge hit "Right To Be Wrong."
Earlier, Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General and CEO of Civicus (World Alliance For Citizen Participation) caused a stir when he stated, in a message to President George W. Bush, "if he can fund a war in Iraq he can do something about climate change."
The only sour note? The mess of plastic cups and rubbish on the floor after the show finale (an all-star singing of Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World").
Coverage from Live Earth concerts around the world continues throughout the day at Billboard.com. For more on Live Earth and the greening initiatives driving the music industry, visit Billboard's Going Green microsite.