July 2, 2005

World’s pop stars go global against poverty

By Paul Majendie and Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) - A galaxy of rock stars staged theworld's biggest live concert on Saturday to pressure richnations into doing more for the poor.

People power rose up across four continents as Irish rockerBob Geldof urged music fans at Live 8 gigs around the globe tocry "No more excuses" to the G8 leaders of the world's leadingindustrialized nations.

"Mahatma Gandhi freed a continent, Martin Luther King freeda people, Nelson Mandela freed a country. It does work. Theywill listen," Geldof said.

Geldof, mastermind behind the 1985 Live Aid concert thatraised $100 million for the starving in Ethiopia, was trying tofeed the world back then. This time he wants to change it bypolitical pressure alone, including a hoped for 2 billionpeople tuning in to watch the concerts.

U2 frontman Bono, another key celebrity campaigner, summedup their message: "We're not asking you to put your hand inyour pockets but we are asking people to put their fist in theair."

He told G8 leaders: "This is your moment. Make history bymaking poverty history."

Bono fired up 200,000 fans in London's Hyde Park by joiningPaul McCartney to launch the show with "Sergeant Pepper'sLonely Hearts Club Band."

The Beatles classic offered an echo of Live Aid with itsfirst line "It was 20 years ago today."

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

Leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations meetnear Edinburgh on July 6-8, and British Prime Minister TonyBlair has Africa and poverty high on the agenda.

In Edinburgh, 200,000 demonstrators wearing white marchedthrough the city to back the Make Poverty History campaign.


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

The diminutive star expressed the sense of helplessness shefelt 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 andbefore a crowd of 150,000 in Berlin where most Germans felt itwas a good idea even if they had doubts about its impact.

Stonemason Bernd Oppermann said: "I think every littlething helps to raise awareness about poverty no matter howsmall, and hey, this is the greatest rock concert in theworld."

In Philadelphia, actor Will Smith told a crowd estimated atabout 1 million people: "This is the biggest ... event that hasever taken place on this planet."

And in Barrie, near Toronto, 35,000 people turned out forthe musical feast.


Geldof has been criticized for largely excluding Africanartists.

Musician Peter Gabriel stepped in with a separate, smallergig for African performers, and Johannesburg was added to thelist of venues, but that has not been enough to preventGeldof's detractors from accusing him of "cultural apartheid."

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

"I don't believe it will do any good," said 18-year-old NirLivneh in the London crowd. "It won't stop poverty in Africa."

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

At France's concert which boasted the Chateau de Versaillesas its elegant backdrop, 16-year-old Hugo Viollier sat on thegrass drinking beer with friends.

"I came because it's free and not very far from where Ilive. I didn't' even know it had anything to do with Africauntil you told me but that's a good thing." (Additionalreporting by Reuters bureaux)