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Freedom of expression in Philly

Diverse lineup and fiery performances please the huge crowd, which hears political messages along with the music.

July 04, 2005|Richard Cromelin | Times Staff Writer

The London concert had the iconic moments at Saturday's Live 8 event, from the U2-Beatle opening to the teary Pink Floyd reunion.

Where did that leave Philadelphia, the global event's second-most-important show? Somehow, Stevie Wonder bringing out the guy from Maroon 5 to sing a verse doesn't carry quite the weight of Bono-meets-McCartney.

The absence of those special, memorable collaborations was the major drawback at Live 8's only U.S. outpost. On the other hand, the concert had something for everybody, packed as it was with big names from a dizzying range of pop music splinter genres -- Britpop and jam-bands, heavy metal and country, alt-rock and rap.

That reflected Live 8's aim of drawing as many fans as possible to show support for the cause of African relief, and it apparently worked: The crowd that gathered in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art was estimated at 600,000 to 800,000.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday July 07, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 60 words Type of Material: Correction
Live 8 collaboration -- A review in Monday's Calendar section of the Live 8 concert in Philadelphia said Rob Thomas and Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine joined Stevie Wonder in a performance of Wonder's song "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours." In fact, only Levine sang with Wonder on the number. Thomas had earlier teamed with Wonder to sing "Higher Ground."

Philadelphia also had a high profile because it hosted Live 8's largest contingent of hip-hop and R&B artists -- performers whose heritage and music are tied to roots in the continent that was the focus of the day.

And many of them came through with some of the most fiery -- and outspoken -- performances seen in any of the six cities carried on AOL (which will continue streaming the concerts for six weeks).

In the middle of his engrossing three-song set, rapper Kanye West delivered a scathing mini-sermon that contrasted those living in poverty with "politicians who drive home in their Bentleys." Later, rapper Jay-Z made a not-so-veiled allusion to the Iraq war when he talked about "spending billions and billions of dollars to kill people."

Those moments came closest to defying organizers' orders to avoid attacks on government officials. Alicia Keys was probably more what they had in mind, as she spoke with simple eloquence about the cause, then sang the 1930s ballad "For All We Know," an elegant expression of the uncertainty of life.

Actor and rapper Will Smith anchored one of the day's most compelling images, leading all the Live 8 cities in a simultaneous demonstration as concertgoers around the world stood and snapped their fingers every three seconds, symbolizing the appalling frequency at which children are dying in Africa

Overall, the mandate for a broad demographic made for strange bedfellows (Bon Jovi to Toby Keith to Linkin Park), and much of the music came off as business as usual.

But there were a few special-occasion pairings, from the celebratory (Black Eyed Peas with members of the Marley family) to the solemn (Sarah McLachlan and Josh Groban). In Wonder's vibrant finale, the veteran singer invited Rob Thomas and Adam Levine (the Maroon 5 guy) to sing with him on "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours," which was a bit like a Hall of Fame hitter playing pepper with Little Leaguers.

A mouse-click away, the African heritage also was felt in Paris, in the presence of singers Yannick Noah and Youssou N'Dour and in the dance beats that drove many of the pop acts at Versailles.

And if anyone out here wonders why there was no California show, it might be because all our acts were in Berlin -- that's where Audioslave and Green Day fired up the crowd and Brian Wilson distributed what proved to be the day's core currency, good vibrations.

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