It took Live Aid 20 years to spawn Live 8, but pop-culture history repeats at an ever-accelerating pace. So, just two years on, the latest iteration is upon us: Live Earth.
Like any worthy sequel, Live Earth - which takes place Saturday at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., and eight other locations around the globe - has even grander ambitions.
The previous Lives, which had their U.S. concerts in Philadelphia, aimed only to save Africa. What, just one continent? That’s nothing. This time around, with Al Gore’s guidance, the rock stars of the world will unite to save all seven.
And not only that: Live Earth will include concerts on every principal land mass on the planet, including Antarctica (the ninth site), where a low-down house band of British scientists called Nunatak will no doubt prove themselves to be a bunch of supremely chill dudes.
Which all sounds pretty cool. But Live Earth - subtitled the Concerts for a Climate in Crisis - exists, of course, to highlight the opposite.
Namely, that it’s getting hot in herre - though, for some reason, Nelly is not on the list of performers. And that, as Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” argues, global warming - or if you prefer, climate change - is leading the planet to all but certain environmental disaster.
All but certain, that is, unless the Police, Dave Matthews, Kanye West, Bon Jovi, Alicia Keys, Akon, John Mayer, Ludacris, Kelly Clarkson, Keith Urban, and Fall Out Boy stand up and do something about it right now.
Those are among the acts on the lineup of the American show, which the organizers insist on calling Live Earth New York, though we all know it’s taking place in the midst of perhaps the most un-green place on God’s earth, that being the petrochemical corridor of the New Jersey Turnpike.
The Jersey Live Earth lineup is similar to the Live 8 bill that assembled on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in 2005. Matthews, West, Keys, Urban and Bon Jovi were all on stage in front of the Art Museum on that July day.
This American Live, though, has more juice, with the marquee stadium act of the summer in the reunited Police, plus classic-rock cred with Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, hip-hop with Ludacris, arena rock with Bon Jovi and Melissa Etheridge, emo representation in Fall Out Boy and Taking Back Sunday, and singer-songwriter sensibility in KT Tunstall and John Mayer.
And there are plenty of other big names scheduled to be performing around the globe, though LE organizer Kevin Wall had not, as of last week, announced anything as headline-grabbing as Live 8’s full-blown Pink Floyd reunion.
(Live Aid and 8 helmsman Bob Geldof is not involved, and he has taken pleasure in shooting spitballs at Earth, calling it “just an enormous pop concert.” Thus far, the world’s leading world-saver, Bono, has apparently been preoccupied editing the Africa issue of Vanity Fair and has not announced any involvement.)
Still, they’ve got a pretty good bill across the pond at London’s Wembley Stadium, with Madonna, the Beastie Boys, Metallica, Corinne Bailey Rae, Bloc Party, Black Eyed Peas, the Pussycat Dolls, and - in what may be the most entertaining interlude of the day - a reunited Spinal Tap.
Pharrell Williams and Gilberto Gil will be in Rio de Janeiro, Snoop Dogg and Shakira in Hamburg, Linkin Park and Rihanna in Tokyo, Wolfmother and Jack Johnson in Sydney, Joss Stone and Angelique Kidjo in Johannesburg, and 12 Girls Band and Sarah Brightman in Shanghai.
Unlike Live 8, which was free, Live Earth is a ticketed event, though Live Earth “is not a fund-raiser,” Wall told Paste magazine. “It`s the major launch of a messaging campaign and a behavioral change.” The messaging campaign, branded SOS for Save Our Selves, has headquarters at http://www.liveearth.msn.com, where Web surfers can ask questions of Sonny, the sunglasses-wearing polar bear, or check out a photo gallery of Rihanna that is, er, kinda hot.
It should make for an impressively ginormous global event, one that Mike D of the Beastie Boys - who have music-for-a-cause experience with the Tibetan Freedom Concerts, from 1996 to 2001 - told Rolling Stone has “a real chance to get the collective consciousness of almost the entire world focused on the topic.”
But there’s dissonance, if not hypocrisy, in using a monstrously oversize concert as a vehicle to combat CO2-emission-fueled global warming. (Particularly one that’s being put on at the Meadowlands, which is famously difficult to access by public transportation. I’ll be getting there the same way as most everybody else: by car.)
For starters, there’s the tough-to-take sanctimony of millionaire rock stars who jet around the globe preaching conservation, then act morally superior because they’ve learned to turn off the lights when they leave the room. Though some positive developments may arise from artists’ taking environmental responsibility: When Matthews was recently asked if he might stop touring altogether to lessen his environmental impact, he said: “It may come to that.”
Brit environmental organization CarbonFootprint.com says that Madonna’s Confession Tour produced 440 tons of CO2 in 2006 just with flights between countries, not including what it took to power up each show and transport equipment and people from gig to gig.
Sure sounds like a lot. The Live Earth organizers will undoubtedly be pushing recycling, public transportation, and environmental activism on Saturday. Still, you can’t help but wonder if holding eight stadium concerts around the globe is really the best way for the entertainment world to exercise - or exorcise? - its guilty conscience on the subject of the fragility of the environment.
The popularity of Live Earth as a cause is not so hard to figure out, however. Even if you dispute the direness of the situation, it’s tough to say you’re against it.
Clearly, with Live Earth coming so close on the heels of Live 8, the megaconcert as would-be agent of change that was a hallmark of the `80s is back in a big way.
But while the `00s have been fraught with peril, from Sept. 11 to the Iraq war, this decade’s giant pop-music gatherings aren’t taking any controversial stands. Instead, Live Earth takes a less-risky route with an idea that pretty much everyone can get behind: Save Our Selves.