July 2, 2005

Rock stars put on historic show to fight poverty

By Claudia Parsons and Paul Majendie

PHILADELPHIA/LONDON (Reuters) - More than a million peoplegathered in cities across the world on Saturday for Live 8, thebiggest music concert ever held to pressure rich nations to domore for the poor.

The largest gig was in Philadelphia, where organizers saidup to 1 million people crammed the streets, with people poweron display at 10 separate concerts across four continents.

In London, Irish rocker Bob Geldof urged 200,000 fans tocry "No more excuses" to the Group of Eight leaders of theworld's leading industrialized nations who meet in Scotlandnext week.

"Mahatma Gandhi freed a continent, Martin Luther King freeda people, Nelson Mandela freed a country. It does work. Theywill listen," Geldof said in London's Hyde Park.

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 by political pressure,calling for debt forgiveness, a doubling of aid to poor nationsand fair trade to allow African countries to compete.Organizers say up to 2 billion people will tune in to watch theconcerts.

But the impact of Live 8 was compromised by limited U.S.television coverage, with the show available only on cablechannels MTV and VH-1 and ABC broadcasting just two hours ofhighlights.

"America has a sense of disconnect when it comes to Africaor places that are very far away because many of us, most ofus, won't get the opportunity to see those places," said singerAlicia Keyes.

Others were determined to put pressure on rich countries.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela told a crowdin Johannesburg:

"I say to all those leaders, do not look the other way. Donot hesitate. We ask our leaders to demonstrate commitment, notengage in hollow promises. It is within your power to avoid agenocide of humanity."

U2's frontman Bono summed up the message: "We're not askingyou to put your hand in your pockets but we are asking peopleto put their fist in the air."

Speaking in London, he told G8 leaders: "This is yourmoment. Make history by making poverty history."


Bono fired up fans in Hyde Park by joining Paul McCartneyto launch the show with "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts ClubBand." The Beatles classic offered an echo of Live Aid with itsfirst line "It was 20 years ago today."

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

G8 leaders meet near Edinburgh on July 6-8, and BritishPrime Minister Tony Blair has put poverty on the agenda. InEdinburgh, 200,000 demonstrators marched peacefully through thecity 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 Barrie, near Toronto, 35,000 people turned out for themusical feast, while France's concert boasted the Chateau deVersailles as its elegant backdrop.

The crowd at Moscow's Red Square was small, perhapsunsurprising in a country where more than a quarter of thepopulation lives below the poverty line.

In Johannesburg, most of those interviewed among the crowdof 10,000 had never even heard of Geldof.

He 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."

(Reporting by Reuters bureaus)