July 2, 2005

Live 8 warms up as McCartney rocks London

By Paul Majendie and Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) - Paul McCartney and U2's Bono fired up ahuge London crowd with "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts ClubBand" on Saturday for the anti-poverty crusade, Live 8, thebiggest music event ever staged.

Starting the show with the familiar lyrics: "It was 20years ago today," ex-Beatle McCartney harked straight back tothe 1985 Live Aid concerts.

Back then, a new standard in fund-raising was achieved byorganizer Bob Geldof to help the victims of Ethiopia's famine.

This time, Irish rocker Geldof wants up to a million peopleto attend 10 shows across four continents to pressure worldleaders meeting next week to do more to end extreme poverty.

"Mahatma Gandhi freed a continent, Martin Luther King freeda people, Nelson Mandela freed a country. It does work -- theywill listen," he told some 200,000 people in London's HydePark.

Bono, another key celebrity campaigner, summed up themessage: "We're not asking you to put your hand in your pocketsbut we are asking people to put their fist in the air."

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 itself, tens of thousands of demonstratorswearing white marched through the city on Saturday as part ofthe related Make Poverty History campaign.

Tokyo kicked off Live 8 earlier in the day, with Icelandicstar Bjork helping fill a 10,000-capacity venue at shortnotice.

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 told reporters afterwards.

"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."

Live 8 was also under way in Rome and in Berlin, where upto 100,000 people gathered around the Brandenburg Gate. But inJohannesburg a crowd of only 3-4,000 had shown up early on,well short of the 40,000 organizers had expected.


Pop legends, including Madonna, The Who, Stevie Wonder anda re-formed Pink Floyd, are taking part in the concerts.

But Geldof has been criticized for largely excludingAfrican artists.

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's won't stop poverty inAfrica."

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 is costing around 25 million pounds ($45 million) tostage, a price worth paying, Geldof would argue, after recentsuccesses including a $40 billion debt forgiveness deal andU.S. pledges to double aid to Africa.

"We're on the way," he said. "It's incredible to thinkafter 20 years we're almost there." (Additional reporting byReuters bureaux)