July 2, 2005

Bjork rocks Tokyo as Live 8 marathon kicks off

By David Dolan

TOKYO (Reuters) - Icelandic singer Bjork rocked Tokyo onSaturday, kicking off the biggest live music show in historywhich aims to pressure world leaders to do more to fightpoverty.

Live 8, an expanded version of the Live Aid sensation of 20years ago, will take in 10 cities and four continents and endin North America. Organizer Bob Geldof wants to harness peoplepower to push for political change.

Dozens of pop legends, including Paul McCartney, Madonnaand Stevie Wonder, will leave their egos backstage for showsthat promoters say will be seen by two billion peopleworldwide.

In Tokyo, the 10,000-seat venue was full by the end,although many in the crowd said they came mainly to seeheadline act Bjork give her first live performance in twoyears.

The diminutive star expressed the sense of helplessness shefelt in the face of extreme poverty in poor countries.

"I look at the news, I see people starving, I am crying.I'm a total mess," she told reporters after the gig.

"You try to think how you're going to break through thiscobweb of problems and bureaucracy and how on Earth anybody isgoing to make any change."

The focus now turns to Europe, and in particular London,which has the strongest line-up.

Paul McCartney and U2 frontman Bono are due to openproceedings before more than 200,000 fans with a rendition of"Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," the opening lineof which harks back to Live Aid: "It was 20 years ago today."

But unlike 1985, when an estimated 1.5 billion televisionviewers tuned in and donated over $100 million for Ethiopia'sfamine victims, organizers have the Internet and mobile phonesthis time to help them reach an even bigger audience.

Geldof wants to force leaders of the Group of Eight majorindustrialized nations meeting in Scotland next week to meethis demands of debt relief to poor countries, a doubling of aidand the promotion of fairer trade.

"Ten concerts, 100 artists, a million spectators, twobillion viewers, and one message ... to get those eight men, inthat one room, to stop 30,000 children dying every single dayof extreme poverty," the Live 8 Web site said.


Geldof has faced criticism in the build-up to Live 8,particularly for his handling of African artists who werelargely excluded from the main concert line-ups.

Musician Peter Gabriel stepped in with a separate, smallergig for African performers, and Johannesburg has been added tothe list 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.

But former South African President Nelson Mandela is amongthose backing Live 8 and the Make Poverty History campaign.

"Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You canbe that great generation," he wrote in a letter to the media.

Some 5-6,000 people had turned up by early afternoon as theJohannesburg concert got under way.

In Edinburgh, near where the G8 leaders will meet,thousands of demonstrators gathered on Saturday to marchagainst poverty.

While awareness of Live 8 is high in Britain, othercountries on the concert schedule have had little time toprepare and faced public apathy.

The lack of publicity in Japan, the world's second largestaid donor, restricted the size of the audience early on, butfans at the Tokyo concert said they sympathized with its aims.

"I've heard about how hard life is in Africa," said27-year-old Tsunenori Sakai. "If Japan doesn't help Africa withits debt, really try and help the African people and dosomething about AIDS ... I don't think Africa can really moveahead," he said.

Live 8 will cost around 25 million pounds ($45 million) tostage, a price worth paying, Geldof would argue, after recentsuccesses including $40 billion debt forgiveness deal and U.S.pledges to double aid to Africa as signs of progress.

"We're on the way," he said. "It's incredible to thinkafter 20 years we're almost there."