Rock stars put on historic show to fight poverty


  • World
  • Sunday, 03 Jul 2005

By Claudia Parsons and Paul Majendie

PHILADELPHIA/LONDON (Reuters) - More than a million people jammed Live 8 venues around the globe on Saturday as a galaxy of rock stars staged the world's biggest concert to pressure rich nations into doing more for the poor. 

The biggest concert was in Philadelphia where up to a million people crammed the streets as people power rose up at 10 separate gigs across four continents. 

Britain's Sir Paul McCartney (R) performs with Irish rock star Bono (L) at the Live 8 concert in Hyde Park in London, July 2, 2005. Photo by Stephen Hird/Reuters

In London, Irish rocker Bob Geldof urged music fans to cry "No more excuses" to the Group of Eight leaders of the world's leading industrialised nations who meet in Scotland next week. 

"Mahatma Gandhi freed a continent, Martin Luther King freed a people, Nelson Mandela freed a country. It does work. They will listen," Geldof said in London's Hyde Park. 

Geldof, mastermind behind the 1985 Live Aid concert that raised $100 million for the starving in Ethiopia, was trying to feed the world back then. 

This time he wants to change it by political pressure, calling for debt forgiveness, a doubling of aid to poor nations and fair trade to allow African countries to compete. Organisers say up to 2 billion people will tune in to watch the concerts. 

Former South African President Nelson Mandela told a crowd in Johannesburg: 

"I say to all those leaders, do not look the other way. Do not hesitate. We ask our leaders to demonstrate commitment, not engage in hollow promises. It is within your power to avoid a genocide of humanity." 

U2's frontman Bono, another celebrity campaigner, summed up the message: "We're not asking you to put your hand in your pockets but we are asking people to put their fist in the air." 

Speaking in London, he told G8 leaders: "This is your moment. Make history by making poverty history." 

Bono fired up 200,000 fans in Hyde Park by joining Paul McCartney to launch the show with "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". The Beatles classic offered an echo of Live Aid with its first line "It was 20 years ago today". 

Hollywood actor Brad Pitt told the crowd: "Let us be outraged, let us be loud, let us be bold." 

G8 leaders meet near Edinburgh on July 6-8, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair has put poverty on the agenda. In Edinburgh, 200,000 demonstrators marched peacefully through the city to back the Make Poverty History campaign. 

TOKYO KICK-OFF 

Tokyo kicked off Live 8 with Icelandic star Bjork headlining at a 10,000-capacity venue. 

The diminutive star expressed the sense of helplessness she felt in the face of Africa's extreme poverty. 

"I look at the news, I see people starving, I am crying. I'm a total mess," she said. 

Live 8 was also staged in the Circus Maximus in Rome and before a crowd of 150,000 in Berlin where most Germans felt it was a good idea even if they had doubts about its impact. 

Stonemason Bernd Oppermann said: "I think every little thing helps to raise awareness about poverty no matter how small, and hey, this is the greatest rock concert in the world." 

In Philadelphia, actor Will Smith told a huge crowd: "This is the biggest ... event that has ever taken place on this planet." 

In Barrie, near Toronto, 35,000 people turned out for the musical feast, while France's concert boasted the Chateau de Versailles as its elegant backdrop. 

In Johannesburg, most of those interviewed among the crowd of 10,000 had never even heard of Geldof, but Edward Romoki, yelling over a booming hip-hop act, said: "Maybe a concert like this can put Africa in the news and change things." 

Geldof has been criticised for largely excluding African artists. 

Musician Peter Gabriel stepped in with a separate, smaller gig for African performers, and Johannesburg was added to the list of venues, but that has not been enough to prevent Geldof's detractors from accusing him of "cultural apartheid". 

Some aid workers and Africans also worry that the Live 8 initiatives will only serve to bolster corrupt regimes while scepticism persists that rock stars can change anything. 

(Additional reporting by Reuters bureaux) 

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