Two billion watch Live Earth concerts

 

An estimated two billion people around the world watched yesterday's Live Earth concerts to highlight the problem of climate change.

The 24-hour music marathon spanning seven continents saw rappers, rockers and country stars taking to the stage.

"Times like these demand action," said former Vice President Al Gore, speaking to the sold-out crowd of about 52,000 fans in New Jersey's Giants Stadium, near New York City, yesterday.

With other shows in London, Sydney, Tokyo, Kyoto, Shanghai, Hamburg, Johannesburg, Rio de Janeiro — and even a performance by a band of scientists at a research station in Antarctica — organisers promised the biggest musical event ever staged, dwarfing the Live Aid and Live 8 concerts.

Live Earth venues featured aboriginal elders, chimpanzee calls from scientist Jane Goodall, a holographic Gore and more than 100 of the biggest names in music - including Bon Jovi, Linkin Park and the Beastie Boys.

The concerts are backed by Gore, whose campaign to force global warming on to the international political stage inspired the event.

At concerts around the world, musicians and celebrities encouraged fans and one another to take little steps, such as not leaving electrical devices plugged in when not in use, or changing to low-energy light bulbs.

At the London show, the stadium's nonessential lights were turned off before the closing act — Madonna — came onstage, leaving the venue dark except for the glow of exit lights and the flashes of cameras. "Let's hope the concerts that are happening around the world are not just about entertainment, but about starting a revolution," said Madonna, who sang a song she wrote for Live Earth called Hey You.

The Beastie Boys wore their feelings on their sleeves, performing a furious set of their hits in tailored green suits and shades when they took the stage at Wembley Stadium.

"Let's all try to do our parts and see if we can get it together," Beastie Boy Adam Yauch told the crowd. In New Jersey, rocker Melissa Etheridge pounded out her song I Need to Wake Up, which was featured in Gore's documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, and won an Oscar for best song this year.

Mr Gore made a live video appearance from Washington to open the first show on the other side of the world in Sydney, Australia, and a few hours later appeared onstage in Tokyo as a hologram. The former vice president attended the New Jersey show, taking mass transit from Washington. He called on members of the crowd to commit themselves to a seven-point pledge to combat global warming, including steps such as demanding a moratorium on building new coal-powered plants and fighting for more renewable energy.

"I would like to ask each and every one of you to answer the call," Mr Gore said.

US and British media were generally underwhelmed today by Live Earth, the mega-concert organised by former US vice president and green campaigner Al Gore, which, though built on the model of Live Aid and Live 8, created a less positive buzz.

In Germany, however, newspapers were more upbeat about yesterday's gigs designed to pressure leaders to sign a new treaty by 2009 that would cut global warming pollution by 90 per cent in rich nations and more than half worldwide by 2050.

Several articles examined the green credentials of artists on the day, including Madonna, whose annual "carbon footprint" was estimated at around 100 times the average Briton's. The News of the World tabloid, Britain's biggest-selling newspaper, detailed estimates of Madonna's carbon emissions from nine houses, a fleet of cars, a private jet and the Confessions tour, calling her a "climate-change catastrophe".

The Sunday Telegraph quoted US reports of her alleged financial links to companies accused of being major polluters.