Paul McCartney and U2 rocked London’s Hyde Park with a rousing performance of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” today (July 2) to kick off the main event in the Live 8 extravaganza rolling around the globe from Tokyo to Johannesburg.
A thunderous roar erupted from the crowd of 150,000 as McCartney and U2’s Bono belted out the first line: “It was 20 years ago today …” — a nod to the mammoth Live Aid concerts that raised millions for African famine relief two decades ago.
Musicians and fans were gathering in 10 cities worldwide for a global music marathon to raise awareness of African poverty and to pressure world leaders to do something about it at the Group of Eight summit in Scotland next week. Organizer Bob Geldof promised to deliver “the greatest concert ever.”
Bono, dressed in black and wearing his trademark wraparound shades, wrapped the crowd around his finger, getting tens of thousands to sing along to the anthemic “One” and “Beautiful Day.” The crowd cheered as white doves were released overhead.
“So this is our moment. This is our time. This is our chance to stand up for what’s right,” Bono said. “We’re not looking for charity, we’re looking for justice. We cannot fix every problem, but the ones we can, we must.”
The musical marathon started in Japan, where Bjork and Good Charlotte joined local bands for a concert that failed to generate much interest in Asia’s only G-8 nation.
It rolled on to Johannesburg, South Africa, where thousands of people — some in brightly colored beaded skirts, others wearing jeans and talking on cell phones — jumped, danced and waved signs demanding “trade justice” and “give us food.”
German crowd-pleasers Die Toten Hosen kicked off Berlin’s Live 8 concert, electrifying the crowd with a string of power anthems while reminding revelers that helping Africa stood above the music. “This is no rock concert, it’s a reminder about next Wednesday,” singer Campino told the crowds, referring to next week’s meeting.
Besides London, Berlin and Tokyo, concerts also were being held in cities in the other G-8 countries — Philadelphia, Paris, Rome, Toronto and Moscow.
In Philadelphia, the Black Eyed Peas were joined by Bob Marley’s widow Rita and his son Stephen for a rendition of the activist anthem “Get Up, Stand Up,” while Rob Thomas and Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine guested during Stevie Wonder’s early evening set.
In an open letter to the G-8 leaders, which appeared in several British newspapers today, Geldof said the summit will disappoint the world if it fails to deliver an extra $25 billion in aid to Africa.
“We will not applaud half-measures, or politics as usual. This must be a historic breakthrough,” the letter says. “Today there will be noise and music and joy, the joy of exuberant possibility. On Friday [the end of the summit] there will be great silence as the world awaits your verdict. Do not disappoint us. Do not create a generation of cynics.”
In Tokyo, Icelandic singer Bjork made her first live performance in two years. But the crowd of 10,000 people was only half of what the hall in the Tokyo suburb of Makuhari was capable of holding.
“People are willing to go out of their way, because we believe passionately in what this is about,” said Bjork. “Just the acknowledgment of the problem is an important step.”
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