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Live Earth circles globe with message

A common bond for the concerts, including one in Antarctica, is climate change, although critics say that's a hazy goal.

July 08, 2007|Erika Hayasaki and Alicia Lozano | Times Staff Writers

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Live Earth, the confederacy of musicians who performed Saturday on all seven continents to highlight the issues of global climate change, featured superstars such as Madonna and the Police entertaining crowds in packed stadiums, but also parka-wearing scientists at an Antarctic research station whose audience included wandering penguins.

Live Earth used the now-familiar template of concerts-for-causes shaped largely by Live Aid, the 1985 famine relief shows. But the 24 hours of music circling the globe Saturday used the Internet and high-definition camera technologies to create a uniquely 21st century event.

Leading up to Saturday, though, Live Earth was also criticized by some for being too vague in its cause or for being a promotional tool for its cofounder, environmental activist Al Gore, the former vice president.

The politician was given a rock star's welcome at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, where he was introduced by Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio. In London, the Black Eyed Peas' premiered a new pro-Earth song that he said he recorded after an inspirational encounter with Gore at the Grammy Awards in February. One of the lines: "We got a new terror threat: the weather."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday July 10, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 35 words Type of Material: Correction
Leonardo DiCaprio: An article in Section A on Sunday about the Live Earth concerts referred to Leonardo DiCaprio as an "Oscar-winning actor." DiCaprio has been nominated for Academy Awards three times but has never won.

The other Live Earth concerts Saturday were in Hamburg, Sydney, Tokyo, Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro and Johannesburg. Many "unofficial" events borrowed the name and cause, such as the Viva Earth show, an R&B and hip-hop concert Saturday night at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Live Earth organizers also registered viewing parties and tie-in events in a reported 131 countries.

"This is unprecedented, and we believe it has the chance to become a real tipping point in the consciousness of the world, the beginning a focused effort to deal with the very real dangers of climate change," said Kevin Wall, the other Live Earth cofounder who also was a key figure in last year's Live 8 concerts addressing global poverty.

Wall and Gore have come under fire, though, by critics such as British rock star Bob Geldolf, the key architect of the Live Aid and Live 8 shows, who said this latest concert-for-a-cause was unfocused and unwieldy. Other rock stars, including Roger Daltrey of the Who and Matthew Bellamy of Muse, have mocked the show for its hazy mission or for using celebrities who travel in private jets and perform with huge amplifiers to educate the world about reasonable energy consumption.

The concerts aired on NBC in a three-hour highlights package while versions of the shows, either abridged or in whole, aired on Bravo, the Sundance Channel, XM and Sirius satellite radio, KLOS-FM (95.5) in Los Angeles, and several other outlets. The shows were documented intensely online via MSN's website. Organizers said they hoped to reach 2 billion people through the assorted media.

The main focus Saturday was, not surprisingly, onstage, especially in London and New Jersey. The U.K. show featured a reunion of Genesis and performances by Madonna, Metallica, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beastie Boys, the Black Eyed Peas, the Foo Fighters and others. Between acts, video clips featuring Hollywood talent such as Jennifer Garner and Penelope Cruz urged concertgoers to do their part at home by buying reusable coffee filters and adjusting their thermostat by a degree.

Stateside, it was the Police, the Dave Matthews Band, Kelly Clarkson, Kanye West, Alicia Keys, John Mayer, Bon Jovi and Ludacris at the top of the New Jersey bill. Event organizers had converted the stadium into a big eco-friendly bubble, with recycling centers every few feet and tents made from recycled billboards. Pretzels and hot dogs came packaged in biodegradable wrappers. Companies set up in corners to advertise energy-saving lightbulbs and organic foods.

At one recycling center, volunteer Martha Parks, 53, helped people sort bottles, trash and biodegradable containers into three bins. Most seemed confused over which bin they were supposed to use.

On the stage below -- its backdrop adorned with dozens of recycled tires -- an announcer yelled: "You guys realize you are part of history right now? Change! We all have the power to make a change."

The message did not reach everyone, much to Parks' frustration. Behind her, a man threw a beer bottle in the trash without glancing at the recycling signs. Parks rolled her eyes, pulled it out and swore at him. "Then we have the [expletives] who don't even care," she snapped. "They just want to see the stars."

David Naczycz, 34, of New York conceded, "It's a concert. Live Aid, when they did that, it helped a little. But it's obviously not going to fix the problem."

Gore, appearing onstage several times in New Jersey in jeans and short-sleeved shirt, praised the artists for "standing onstage and also taking a stand" on the environment.

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