Superstar American soul singer John Legend is heading Down Under to show his support for a global campaign that hopes to help wipe-out polio for good.
Legend and chart-topping Australian hip hoppers Bliss N Eso will headline this Friday's "The End of Polio Concert" at Perth's Belvoir Amphitheatre, which will feature homegrown performers Andy Bull, Calling All Cars, Hungry Kids of Hungary, Owl Eyes and the Getaway Plan.
The free concert coincides with the first day of a world-leaders' pow-wow, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), and is the brainchild of Global Poverty Project, whose board members include the former high-flying BMG executive Michael Smellie.
Legend will take time out from shaping his as-yet-unnamed new album - which he says is due next April or May -- to head Down Under. Legend admits he wasn't aware polio was still a problem until he was approached to take part in the show. "We have the opportunity and the ability to completely eradicate it," Legend tells Billboard.biz from his New York recording studio. "In some developing countries it's still not gone. It's still causing a lot of pain to a lot of people."
Through international vaccination work, polio has been reduced by 99% over the past 30 years, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), the public-private partnership in charge of the worldwide campaign to eliminate the disease. But, the GPEI estimates, obliterating polio is still constrained by a US $535 million funding gap.
The Australian concert presents a "huge opportunity" to focus global attention on polio, and to "secure a declaration of support from Commonwealth leaders and to encourage financial contributions from Commonwealth members," explains Michael Sheldrick, The End of Polio campaign manager. The Australian Government is also being called upon to contribute $50 million Australian ($52 million) to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and to put polio on the agenda for this week's high-level talks.
"Really," explains Legend, the show is "about bringing awareness. Part of the motivation behind this was to get the attention of world leaders by doing something that makes some noise."
The GPEI is spearheaded by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). It includes the support of governments and private sector donors, including the Gates Foundation.
The concert in the Western Australian capital is Legend's first in the country since April, when he played Bluesfest and a series of dates in Sydney and Melbourne. He'll be back to promote his next album, which features Kanye West's writing and production skills. "It doesn't have a name yet, but it definitely has a sound," says Legend. "It's a modern soul album. Kanye is producing a lot of it, and writing with me on a lot of songs. There are a few other producers as well. It's really been a lot of fun writing and making this record so far. We expect to be finished by the end of the year."