The Police got a little help from rapper Kanye West and guitarist John Mayer for their show-closing set at the New York-area edition of Live Earth tonight (July 7), with those guests joining the reunited rock trio for “Message in a Bottle” to wrap the event. Organizer Al Gore then took the stage and asked the audience to “put all this energy in your heart and help us solve the climate crisis.”
The Police were in fine form in a performance that also featured “Driven To Tears” and extended versions of “Roxanne” and “Can’t Stand Losing You.” The group played one of its last shows before reuniting this spring at a Giants Stadium human rights benefits in 1986.
Winding down the night, Smashing Pumpkins blended new songs like “Tarantula” with the furious rocker “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” and the crowd favorite “Today,” while former Pink Floyd principal Roger Waters trotted out his old band’s staples like “Another Brick in the Wall,” “Money” and “Dark Side of the Moon,” replete with the traditional inflatable pig floating over the crowd.
Earlier, Bon Jovi brought it all back home during a sundown set, generating the biggest sing-a-longs of the day with such classics as “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Livin’ on a Prayer.” Even the home state security guards at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., were singing along and pumping their fists during the band’s five-song set.
West was a ball of energy during his own set, packed with hits like “Touch the Sky,” “Jesus Walks” and “Gold Digger,” as he ran from one end of the stage to the other while he rapped. West was flanked by a string section whose female members wore exotic face paint; he also played two new songs, “Stronger,” and “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” which will appear on his upcoming Def Jam album.
Kelly Clarkson ratcheted up the intensity with angry songs like “Never Again” and “Sober,” but drew the audience in with a frenetic rendition of her biggest hit, “Since U Been Gone.”
Things turned political as the sun began to set, with Melissa Etheridge passionately urging the crowd to increase its commitment to stop global warming and Alicia Keys dipping into classic R&B and funk to illustrate how one issue can define a generation.
Etheridge performed “I Need To Wake Up,” her theme song to Live Earth organizer Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” as well as two politically charged new songs, “Imagine That” and “What Happens Tomorrow.” Throughout, she revved up the audience to recognize the importance of the global warming crisis.
“You’re going to tell your children, and your children’s children, about he we almost lost our democracy,” she said, strumming a guitar with a green strap emblazoned with the international recycling logo and peace signs.
Keys took the stage to the strands of “I Love New York” and promptly injected a cover of the O’Jays’ “For the Love of Money” with a snippet of Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City.” Just as Corinne Bailey Rae had done at the London Live Earth gig, Keys also covered Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me” before debuting a new song, “That’s the Thing About Love,” scheduled to appear on her new album in late October.
Dave Matthews Band offered up oldies such as “One Sweet World” and the cautionary tale of gluttony, “Too Much.” Earlier, John Mayer balanced heavy guitar jamming with pop appeal, closing his set with the socially conscious “Waiting on the World To Change.” “I wrote this song a year ago,” he said. “A year is long enough to wait, isn’t it?”
Scottish singer/songwriter KT Tunstall and country star Keith Urban were among the first to entertain the crowd here under bright, sunny skies.
“Thanks to these fantastic performers, who are not only taking the stage but taking a stand and helping to launch this global effort to save the climate crisis,” said former U.S. vice president Al Gore, who is spearheading the event. After Etheridge’s set, he took the stage to wild applause and unveiled a seven-point pledge to reduce damage to the environment.
Early in the day, Tunstall urged the audience to do the “Mexican wave” and to “pull your phone chargers out of the wall and eat more soil or something” at the tail end of a set featuring her U.S. breakthrough hit, “Black Horse & the Cherry Tree” as well as “Other Side of the World” and “Suddenly.”
Urban began his set with a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” featuring R&B superstar Alicia Keys and also played the mid-tempo rocker “Stupid Boy” and “I Told You So.” Rapper Ludacris injected the first dose of urban music into the proceedings with his hit “Pimpin’ All Over the World,” “What’s Your Fantasy” and “Get Out the Way.”
Emo-leaning modern rock dominated the first half of the show, with Taking Back Sunday (“What It Feels Like To Be a Ghost,” “Make Damn Sure”), AFI (“The Missing Frame,” “Love Like Winter”) and Fall Out Boy (“Sugar We’re Going Down,” “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs”) offering impassioned performances. “This is not a debatable issue we’re up against,” frontman Adam Lazzara told the crowd.
Organizers claim the Live Earth broadcast on liveearth.msn.com to be the most watched online entertainment event ever, with more than 9 million streams.
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.