It is said that a great concert can change the face of the world. While many bands entertain the idea of one day achieving such a level of influence, few have seen this dream come true. However, when the greatest musicians alive gather across every continent behind the banner of a single unifying cause, then the world truly can change.
The Live Aid (1985) and Live 8 (2005) concerts organized by musical icons Bob Geldof and Bono became so phenomenally successful that they have become almost synonymous with the causes they sought to defend. The pioneer in the genre, Bob Geldof, never rested on his laurels despite raising close to US$283.6 million for poverty alleviation in developing countries by Live Aid.
However, while the format remains the same, the upcoming Live Earth concerts to be held in seven locations worldwide will seek to raise a similar level of attention for environmental concerns.
Former US Vice President Al Gore rose to become one of the world's foremost eco-warriors in 2006, with his Oscar-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Gore's battle would not stop there and on February 15, 2007, he announced the kickoff of Live Earth, a series of concerts to be held across every continent on July 7, 2007, featuring some of the world's most accomplished singers and bands to raise both money and the profile of the environmental causes he fights to defend.
In an exclusive interview with China.org.cn, Yusef K. Robb, global spokesperson for Live Earth, revealed that the man responsible for making Live Earth a reality was none other than Kevin Wall, the former executive producer for Live 8.
"Kevin Wall was deeply moved after watching An Inconvenient Truth and set out to put on Live Earth to raise popular opinion and to take action against global warming. Live Earth will see a series of concerts held for 24 hours over every continent with over 100 headliners appearing. We estimate this will reach a global audience of over 2 billion people watching live, on TV, on the Internet and listening on the radio," Robb said.
Robb told China.org.cn that all proceeds from the shows would be given exclusively to The Alliance for Climate Protection among a number of international NGOs that will be tasked with furthering the momentum garnered by Live Earth. Robb also pointed out that the people inspired the project are more important than the funds alone since they will be the ones to make the Alliance's desired changes a reality.
Final details on the exact nature of related audio and video products are still being worked out, he added.
The series of concerts will kick off in Sydney and the call will be taken up by events in London, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, Johannesburg and Shanghai before concluding in New Jersey. The original plan for the US leg was to hold the concert in front of the Capitol Building in Washington DC, seat of the legislative branch of the US government. However, this was changed after Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma blocked the plan, calling global warming "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people."
Live Earth is seeking to give Al Gore's message, the very one contained in An Inconvenient Truth, a worldwide platform, said Robb, adding that the interest and profits garnered that day would only form the first step of a long process that will continue for years.
"Live Earth will use music to bring people together, to reach them emotionally. It will use all available methods to get across the need for all of us to take action against global warming and make clear the tools people can use to make a difference. Altogether, this will mark the beginning of an international foundation led by the Alliance for Climate Protection and its chairman, Al Gore."
Robb also shed some more light on the line-ups the concerts would be presenting. The US and the UK legs look to be the most glamorous, with London welcoming such acts as the Black-Eyed Peas, Madonna and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and New Jersey rocking out to the tunes of Bon Jovi, the Police and Alicia Keys among many others.
The planning of the Shanghai stop is less advanced than its Western equivalents with no fixed location having been set and only one act, soprano Sarah Brightman, having so far been confirmed.
Although Robb remained tight-lipped about precise details about the Shanghai concert, he promised that full information would be released soon and sought to explain why Shanghai had the honor of being chosen as a Live Earth concert host.
"Shanghai is not only a major Chinese city, it is also a world capital," said Robb. "China is growing at a rapid pace with an incredible number of new cars, factories and buildings expected in the next few years. As such, we hope China will become a leader on global warming and that Shanghai can be a guiding light in many different sectors."
There is little doubt that the energy, will, devotion, and passion behind Live Earth will call out to people as Live Aid did before and great hope exists that an uprising of understanding and determination will stem from this musical extravaganza. Climate change is an issue that nobody can afford to ignore, that no one can blithely brush aside, tasking later generations with bearing its burdens.
As Robb concluded, Live Earth will spark the birth of a long-term fight back to reclaim the damages already wreaked by global warming. The events of July 7 will have a profound impact, one that must be dwarfed by those in the weeks, months and years to come.
(Zhang Rui and Chris Dalby for China.org.cn, April 25, 2007)