Police, Pumpkins, PSAs: Live Earth New York, Onstage and Backstage...
Anyone who watched Live Earth on TV yesterday knows it was nearly impossible to catch any one city's lineup in its entirety, so here's a close-up look at who played and who was chatting it up backstage at Giants Stadium:
At 10:30 PM in Giants Stadium - more than twenty-four hours after Jack Johnson kicked off the Live Earth extravaganza in Sydney - Al Gore took to the recyclable-confetti-strewn stage. "Take all this energy in your heart and help us solve the climate crisis," the former vice president said, straining to be heard above a rapturous packed house.
It remains to be seen whether Live Earth will go down in history as an important milestone in environmental awareness or an over-hyped, self-important spectacle, but for the 52,000 at the sold-out stadium last night, it was at least a pretty solid rock show.
(Who used a teleprompter during their set? Who was the most scantily clad presenter? Read on for a full report of what went down at Live Earth New York onstage and behind the scenes.)
The eight-hour gig began under the hot July sun with Ethiopian-born singer Kenna playing to the early arrivers, many of whom could be seen mouthing "Who is this?" KT Tunstall came onstage to proffer her sunny pop wearing a "Save the Future" T-shirt and some gold spandex leggings she could have saved for the future. The first significant highlight came mid-afternoon, when country star Keith Urban brought out Alicia Keys for a searing cover of the Rolling Stones' 'Gimme Shelter'.
"It was really spontaneous," Keys said backstage, adding that she and Urban rehearsed the song for the first time just hours before the show. "The most important thing about it was the way that two people from seemingly different worlds came together to sing what this day is all about." Later, Keys spotted Mayer backstage, and yelled "Shorty!" The singer-guitarist gave her a big affectionate hug and said the 'Shelter' duet "kicked ass."
Ludacris, AFI, Fall Out Boy, Akon, John Mayer, Melissa Etheridge, Alicia Keys with her own band, Dave Matthews Band and Kelly Clarkson followed, each playing set of about 30 minutes, broken up by short films about the environment, clips from other Live Earth shows around the world and presentations from people like Kevin Bacon, Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz, as well as scientists like Jane Goodall (who gave a seemingly spot-on greeting in chimp-speak) and activists like Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Backstage, Bacon admitted he's been a serious Police fan for years. "When you go back and look at old pictures of me you can see me constantly trying to rock my hair like Sing and not always succeeding," he laughed. "I've been an environmentalist for a really, really long time. I remember standing on the steps of the Capitol building waving around a cloth diaper when my son was just born, and he's eighteen now." Speaking of diapers, Live Earth's seven pledges were posted all over the backstage area, but the most prominent set were located right by the port-a-potties at the stage's entrance.
AFI's Davey Havok spoke about being a vegan from the stage and told us with urgency, "I think that the situation is very, very scary. The changes in weather that we're seeing, the seasons blending into nothing - that shows that we don't have very much time left." Fall Out Boy had more to say about the heat onstage: "To be able to say one day we opened for the Police and Smashing Pumpkins and John Mayer and Kanye West and Alicia Keys - this is going to look really good on our bio," said Pete Wentz.
Dave Matthews cooled himself down with a few beverages and complained to Sting, "It's always the same at these things - my guitar went to shit" (it totally gave out during his first song and a roadie had to come up to give him a replacement). A smiling Kelly Clarkson generously took pictures with and talked to the dozens of fans who approached her backstage. "It's all about bringing your fans here and everybody having a good time and being educated," she said. "The worst thing I do in my life is touring because it's basically the worst thing you can do to the planet. So I've been learning from other bands to use bio-diesel and select people to tour with who are committed to recycling."
DiCaprio and Diaz were the two presenters who weren't readily available to hang backstage, though everyone behind the scenes got a little too much access to James Blunt's ex, model Petra Nemcova, who tromped around in a scandalously short skirt with Lukas Haas. The most popular star by far, though, seemed to be Little Miss Sunshine actress Abigail Breslin. Both Alec Baldwin and Rachel Weisz introduced themselves to Breslin, with Baldwin repeating "Oh my God" like a star-struck fan. Elsewhere behind the scenes, Rosario Dawson said she'd move to the moon if Earth became uninhabitable: "It'd be like Burning Man ... sorta."
Things didn't really heat up again onstage until Kanye West played his typically high-energy set under the fading sun. He did his new single 'Can't Tell Me Nothin'' and classics like 'Jesus Walks' and 'Touch the Sky', during which he broke into an all-out sprint from one side of the enormous stage to the other, rapping in time.
New Jersey's own Bon Jovi played a hits-heavy set that elated the locals, and the Smashing Pumpkins performed their first stadium show since reforming for a new album. Playing old hits like 'Bullet With Butterfly Wings' and 'Today', as well as their new single 'Tarantula', Corgan, with amazing original drummer Jimmy Chamberlain and two new members rocked as hard as ever, though the singer's shilling for the new album and chastising illegal downloaders was a buzz-kill, given the setting.
Up next, Roger Waters ran through a collage of appropriate Pink Floyd hits, including 'Money', 'Us and Them', and 'Brain Damage'/'Eclipse', before creating another highlight during 'Another Brick in the Wall'. A dozen kids ran onstage as the song started, wearing T-shirts that said "Together We Stand," and just as the song got going, a giant inflatable pig soared above the crowd, with "S.O.S. Save Our Sausages" tagged on the side. It was a play on Live Earth's mantra: S.O.S.: Save Ourselves - and it wouldn't be the last of the night.
The Police came out to play their headlining set, quizzically noodling along to 'Driven to Tears', 'Roxanne', and 'Can't Stand Losing You'. The biggest shocker: The band used a teleprompter to help them remember the lyrics, even to some of their biggest-ever hits. For the finale, they introduced John Mayer as a guest guitarist and tore into 'Message in a Bottle'. Suddenly, the song - with its "sending out an S.O.S" refrain - and the band seemed the obvious closer to this effort to reach out and touch billions of people around the globe. As the song approached fever pitch, Kanye West bounded onstage, freestyling some awkward rhymes ("Sting, you the only Police that's good in the 'hood"), before breaking into a frenzied refrain, "We can save the world!" And for a second, the critics and cynics were shoved to the side and it seemed like maybe he was right.
(c) Rolling Stone by Evan Serpick, with reporting by Elizabeth Goodman
Rocking and rapping for the Earth - All-star lineup on 7 continents sounds the call...
The Police, Roger Waters, Kanye West, and the Smashing Pumpkins led an all-star lineup of environmentally conscious rockers and rappers at yesterday's Live Earth concert at Giants Stadium, performing for a sold-out crowd of 52,000.
But that was just the tip of the (melting) iceberg.
During a series of concerts that lasted 24 hours and featured more than 150 musical artists performing in nine cities on seven continents, almost-president-turned-environmental evangelist Al Gore delivered an urgent message about what he called a climate in crisis to a global audience during Live Earth. Broadcast on network and cable television, satellite radio, and online, Live Earth was expected to reach an audience of more than 2 billion people.
Or, as Ludacris said, Live Earth is "pimpin' all over the world."
At Giants Stadium, with a New Jersey-appropriate backdrop of the world, done in vehicle tires painted red and white, actor Kevin Bacon kicked off the show with the big looming question: "Are you ready to answer the call?" While he was answered with resounding cheers, some wonder if that enthusiasm would last past the concert's final notes.
If rock music has a chance of changing the world, Keith Urban and Alicia Keys's fiery duet on 'Gimme Shelter' may have infected concertgoers with the sort of passion required to tackle the climate problem. Unlike 1985's Live Aid, which raised funds for Ethiopian famine relief, and 2005's Live 8, created to pressure leading industrialized nations into providing debt relief to African countries, Live Earth is intended as the launching event for activism of extended duration, a multiyear campaign of education and action.
To that end, Gore and his Live Earth partner Kevin Wall, a veteran live event producer who also worked on Live Aid and Live 8, asked concertgoers and the global audience to take a seven-point pledge vowing to take personal action in the fight against global warming. (The pledge is available at liveearth.org.)
Said Scottish singer KT Tunstall, who wore a "Save the Future" T-shirt during her buoyant set: "Making small choices in your life can make a big difference in the world."
Gore also wants Live Earth viewers to pressure leaders to sign a treaty by 2009 that would cut global warming pollution by 90 percent in rich nations and more than half worldwide by 2050. No doubt eco-conscious celebrities Cameron Diaz, Alec Baldwin, and Leonardo DiCaprio, who also showed up at Giants Stadium to lend their voices to the cause, have signed on the dotted line.
"We can't afford to fail," said DiCaprio, calling the moment "a tipping point in history" before introducing Gore, who in the first of several appearances thanked the performers for "taking the stage and taking a stand."
Not all the artists were burning with conviction, though. Akon, who performed a smooth R&B and hip-hop set, confessed during a backstage press conference that "I just realized today what the meaning of 'green' is."
The audience watched short films offering tips about energy conservation and greener living, shown between sets by hometown heroes Bon Jovi (greeted as if they were the actual saviors of the planet), Melissa Etheridge, John Mayer, Fall Out Boy, and the Dave Matthews Band, among others.
The concert ended with a galvanizing performance of 'Message in a Bottle' by the Police, joined by John Mayer and West.
After kicking off in Sydney, where Aboriginal leaders performed a traditional welcome ceremony, Live Earth migrated westward to Tokyo, Shanghai, Hamburg, Johannesburg, London, and the United States. A concert in Washington, D.C., a last-minute addition featuring Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, and the Giants Stadium show concluded the marathon event, along with a show on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach late in the evening.
In London, the drummers from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Foo Fighters, and Queen jump-started the concert with a heavy percussion soundtrack - performed against a map of the world made of the painted tops of oil barrels and accompanied by images of landfills, endangered animals, wind farms, and photos of the Earth taken from space.
There was also footage from Antarctica, where the previously unknown band Nunatak recorded a short set. The show in front of 17 fellow researchers allowed Gore to keep his promise to hold concerts on seven continents on the date 7/7/7.
Musical highlights in new York included a razor-sharp performance from the Smashing Pumpkins, back after a seven-year hiatus, and Kanye West's classy set with a female orchestra and a DJ.
Live Earth organizers have come under fire for creating an event that consumes huge amounts of energy and generates massive quantities of trash.
But concert officials maintain that the shows are as green as they can be, keeping environmental impact to a minimum by using alternative fuels where possible and renewable-source electricity. Staff and artist air travel is being offset through carbon credits, such as planting trees, they said. At Giants Stadium, concessionaires used recyclable paper products, and organic waste was composted.
And uncertainty about a final goal was addressed by a pair of powerful speakers. One was an incendiary Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who defied the event's one-small-step mentality by arguing that getting involved in the political process - "getting rid of rotten politicians" - was more important than using compact fluorescent bulbs or buying a fuel-efficient car.
The other was Jane Goodall, who brought the crowd to its feet with her version of a chimp's greeting and sent them home with her own poetic take on the question at hand: "What will it take to melt the human heart? We must hear the plea of the natural world, and we must obey."
Proceeds from Live Earth will go to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a nonprofit organization founded by Gore.
(c) The Boston Globe by Joan Anderman