“South Africa, South Africa, are you ready?” Black Eyed Peas will.i.am shouted to the 30-000 strong crowd 12 minutes into the live broadcast – and from that moment, the first-ever FIFA World Cup Kick-Off concert hit its stride and the pace never let up.
Dressed in glitzy military-themed costumes, Black Eyed Peas ran rapidfire through a medley of hits: “Where Is The Love,” “Pump It,” “Meet Me Halfway,” “Boom Boom Pow,” and “I Gotta Feeling” – the latter’s refrain of “tonight’s gonna be a good, good night” setting the tone for a rare display of stadium-sized international music talent.
The live broadcast had opened with a statement of African past and present, with veteran South African jazzman Hugh Masekela segueing from his classic “Grazing in the Grass” into the late Miriam Makeba’s signature song, “Pata Pata” – this time featuring young Afro-soul multi-award winner, Lira on vocals.
The potency of Africa’s talent was plain to see: whether it was Benin’s Angelique Kidjo in full vocal throttle on the “Malaika/Afrika” medley with Grammy Award-winners Soweto Gospel Choir, Mali’s Amadou & Mariam’s transporting “Welcome To Mali,” and “Africa”, the intoxicating sound of Mali’s desert Blues outfit, Tinariwen, South Africa’s Afro-folk favourite Vusi Mahlasela, previously unannounced South African kwaito (township house) hitmakers Big Nuz and DJ Tira, The Parlotones’ full-throttle rock or the deft guitarwork of Mali’s Vieux Farka Toure, Africa claimed the spotlight with passion, energy and no small amount of talent.
But it was the collaborations that really stole the hearts of the crowd: among the raft of pair-ups was Alicia Keys and swampy South African art-rock outfit BLK JKS in a version of the late Brenda Fassie’s decade-old hit song “Too Late For Mama”, and John Legend riffing off Kidjo before heading off into several of his hit songs including “Green Light.”
Thankfully, appearances by dignitaries – including FIFA president Sebb Blatter and South African President Jacob Zuma – were kept to a minimum, with more time given over to 1GOAL, the global education program to provide education for 72 million children around the world. 91-year-old former President, Nelson Mandela, was saving his energy for Friday’s opening match between South African and Brazil at Soccer City (Soweto), but the mainly South African-flag waving crowd were delighted to see another of the country’s Nobel Peace Prize winners on stage. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who still stays in his township house near the stadium when he’s in Joburg, joked he was only there to give the crowd “time to rest.” Dressed head-to-toe in the colors of the national South African football team, the peace activist said “You can feel it. You can touch it,” before welcoming the world in multiple languages and getting the crowd to join in praising Mandela.
The international artists wore their support for Africa boldly: Juanes sported an Adidas jacket in the colors of the South African flag for his set which included a collabo with BEP’s Taboo. Alicia Keys exhorted the crowd not to “forget to love each other,” and then plunged into “No One.” “Johannesburg it’s such a beautiful night today,” she said before introducing BLK JKS. “It’s our moment,” cried rapper K’Naan, clutching a Somalian flag – his version of “Wavin’ Flag” (Celebration Mix) a show highlight that caused a riot of multi-colooured flag waving in the crowd.
Shakira provided the show’s crowning moment, the Colombian singer launching first into “She Wolf” before delivering a show-stopping performance of “Hips Don’t Lie” with South African hip-hop artist Tumi Molekane who had performed earlier in the evening as part of the pre-broadcast show. And when the first notes of the official 2010 FIFA World Cup Song, “Waka Waka (This Time For Africa)” were heard and Shakira’s South African collaborators – Afro-pop outfit Freshlyground – appeared, the crowd erupted into an unceasing cry of delight. “Ngiyabonga Mzansi,” (“thankyou South Africa”) Shakira said in closing.
After that, all that was left to do was for the performers to gather on stage to jointly (and loosely!) sing “Everyday People”. The Sly & The Family Stone song makes a heartfelt plea for peace and equality and proved a fine end to a night of global football and music unity.
The 2010 FIFA World Cup Kick-Off concert was available in the U.S. (and other international territories) as a live stream on vevo.com and it was broadcast by Univision. The concert will air in primetime on ABC, Friday, June 11 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.