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Watching the Live Earth concerts yesterday for something like 8 hours, I got to say, I am absolutely thrilled that so many artists turned out to support such an important cause. Unfortunately the shear scope of these concerts prevented every moment from being shown on regular, but there were tons of great performances from genres from classic to soul to rock to folk shown and you can view all the concert footage online.
From all these performances I definitely found some standouts that struck me from a variety of artists both expected and unexpected. Top highlight for me was the Police, who's set was fiery and electric, exactly as you'd expect the police to be and although I thought the collaboration with Kanye West fell a little short, John Mayer joining them on guitar made up for it. Also, Roger Waters put on a great set, inflatable pig and all, although I really think that any Pink Floyd song isn't really the same without David Gilmour on guitar. It also was great to see the Smashing Pumpkins tear it up on stage; they sounded great, but did look a just a tad bit stiff. Along with that, it was great to see bands like Metallica, the Foo Fighters, Linkin Park, Lenny Kravitz and Wolfmother get their respective crowds moving with some hard hitting rock performances, with Lenny Kravitz's really standing out in my mind, and there were also great bluesy jam sets from the Dave Matthews Band and John Mayor. Oh... and lets not forget a fantastic set by Bon Jovi, further confirming for me that they are and probably always will be one the best arena rock bands of all time, just oozing charisma and stage presence.
Some less than expected highlights for me include both Joss Stone and Alicia Keys both of who's soulful vocal work continues to impress me more and more, and electric and compelling performances from both Madonna and Duran Duran. There was also a killer duet between Keith Urban and Alicia Keys covering the Rolling Stone's "Gimme Shelter". Plus, in general, all the performances had a lot of passion behind them, definitely showing that these artists really believe in this cause and working for a solution, and I think that's what I liked most of all.
A non music related highlight was the short environmental films bookending commercial breaks, some of which were amusing, others more serious, but all really focused on environmental causes and raising some interesting issues that really drive the point home.
I wasn't too keen on parts of the prime time special as they seemed to choose some odd choices on what songs to show, but I really enjoyed the interviews with the artists and Al Gore, again highlighting that these individuals came together because they truly believe in the cause.
An interesting point to make about this entire concert set is that there was some controversy that perhaps the shows themselves would end up doing more harm for the environment than help. I think those claims are pretty unfounded as there were probably 10s of millions of people around the globe watching (UPDATE: Most recent numbers I've seen are as high as 2 billion), and if any percentage of those individuals take up the cause and do even a few small things towards reducing their carbon footprint, we can make significant ground.
UPDATE: I think there is an interesting point to make here about the environmental impact of the show itself as there has been some commentary about how the trash was disposed of from the shows, without recycling etc... All I can say is that I don't know the definite facts so I can't say if this was the case with Live Earth or not, but it seems like there are too often situations where people want to support a good cause, but only go half way... Well... thats all great and all, but next time... if you really believe what you're preaching... go all out.
UPDATE AGAIN I also found it was interesting that Roger Daltrey of the Who was cited, by TIME Magazine, when asked about Live Earth as saying that "the last thing the planet needs is a rock concert"... He's probably right, but hopefully it did help to reach and help motivate some individuals who might otherwise have not been...
Also an interesting point: I saw an interview with Keith Urban, who said that when he announced that his band would be playing at Live Earth, there were some people who booed, and he said, that just shows that some people are still convinced that this is a political issue. I think that is a very important point to make because if we get caught up in politics around an issue as serious as climate change, one that can literally be the end of our species on earth if we underestimate it's impact, by the time we sort it out politically, it'll be too late. Every person on this planet should be concerned with climate change as at least a strong possibility if not a reality, regardless of political affiliation.
Overall, I really enjoyed the Live Earth performances from a musical standpoint and from the standpoint of an activist, I believe that this type of large scale media performance can really help encourage people to take steps in the right direction, even if they're small, by simply letting them know the problems and what they can do to help.
Hopefully it did just that and was a success...
Again, you'll be able to watch all the concerts on Live Earth MSN and there is lots of other information about the events, the cause and the artists (including a full list of who will be performing) on the site as well... Check it out, I know I will be because I know there is lots of footage I didn't get to see, and I watched nearly 8 hours worth... here's the link: http://liveearth.msn.com/
And again, also make sure to check out the Live Earth SOS Organization web page as well to learn more about the concert events, the cause, environmental news, the organization and how to help make a difference. The real focus of these concerts should be the cause as I feel it is one of the most important in human history. You can find the Live Earth website here: http://www.liveearth.org/