- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 2, 2005

PHILADELPHIA — Hundreds of thousands turned out here yesterday for the U.S. installment of Live 8, a worldwide cluster of concerts performed in advance of the July 6 summit of Group of Eight leaders and designed to raise awareness of poverty in the developing world.

The six-hour concert, staged in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and stretching across 60 acres of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, featured top American artists, such as the rock band Bon Jovi, country musician Toby Keith, rapper Jay-Z and R&B; group Destiny’s Child.

“With the stroke of a pen, eight men can make a world of difference for billions of people,” said rapper-actor and concert host Will Smith, referring to the world leaders who will meet Wednesday in Gleneagles, Scotland.

Live 8 organizer Bob Geldof requested that performers ratchet down the kind of partisan rhetoric that characterized celebrities’ involvement in the presidential election last year. Artists here complied for the most part, but, occasionally, lips loosened.

Before his performance, rapper Kayne West said the Iraq war, the AIDS epidemic in Africa and the South Asian tsunami made him wonder, “Are all of Hitler’s dreams coming true — to only have one race left?”

In addition to pop musicians, the event drew black actors, such as Chris Tucker and “Hotel Rwanda” star Don Cheadle. And the scantily clad reality-TV star Anna Nicole Smith posed for reporters, but chose not to answer questions, such as “Why are you here?”

Elsewhere across the globe, more than a million fans attended concerts in Tokyo, Moscow, Johannesburg, Berlin, Rome, Paris, Toronto, London and the southwest England town of Cornwall, where a concert featured African-based musicians.

None of the Live 8 concerts yesterday raised funds for the blighted African nations. Instead, Mr. Geldof, the driving force behind the Live Aid famine-relief concerts 20 years ago, said Live 8 represented a post-charity phase of a global anti-poverty campaign.

Mr. Geldof and fellow Live 8 organizers U2 frontman Bono and screenwriter Richard Curtis aim to convince the world’s eight leading industrialized nations to cancel the debt of Africa’s poorest countries, increase foreign-aid spending and open their markets to African exports.

“Don’t make Africa more pathetic,” said Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life.” “Africa doesn’t need a handout. It needs a hand up.”

The Live 8 concerts, London’s in particular, were criticized for excluding nonwhite musicians. Philadelphia’s lineup, meanwhile, was heavy on black hip-hop and R&B; artists, such as Mr. West, the Black Eyed Peas and Alicia Keys.

Record producer and Philadelphia event organizer Russell Simmons said “no big idea carries in America without hip-hop.”

Benjamin Chavis of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network said, “Hip-hop is a growing cultural phenomenon throughout Africa. We want to connect.”

Attendance figures here were disputed primarily owing to the no-ticket, all-invitation nature of the event. (Concertgoers at London’s Hyde Park, in contrast, were awarded tickets on a lottery basis.)

Thousands of people streamed through Philadelphia’s center-city core — which was closed to vehicle traffic — just to be within reverberatory earshot of the music.

Veteran local promoter Larry Magid reported “no surprises” about midway through the afternoon.

“Are we good or what?” said local disc jockey Cindy Drew, boasting of the city’s capacity to handle large crowds.

Crane-hoisted hoses sprayed the crush of people on the parkway, whose carnival-like perimeter was dominated by freelance T-shirt hawkers and a bevy of food vendors.

In fact, a minor pre-concert controversy here revolved around the seemingly disproportionate share — 17 percent — of minority set-aside vending spaces that were given to Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street’s brother, T. Milton Street.

“There was no special arrangement for him,” a spokesman for a food company partnering with Mr. Street told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In Johannesburg, former South African President Nelson Mandela received a five-minute ovation, according to wire reports. “History and the generations to come will judge our leaders by the decisions they make in the coming weeks,” Mr. Mandela said. “I say to all those leaders: Do not look the other way. Do not hesitate … . It is within your power to prevent a genocide.”

In Hyde Park, Paul McCartney and U2 opened the show jointly with a rendition of the Beatles classic “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Aptly enough, the song’s first line evoked the anniversary of the original Live Aid: “It was 20 years ago today … .”

Organizers estimated that up to 85 percent of the world’s population had access to the Live 8 concerts through television, radio or online broadcasts. In parts of Europe, the concerts could be viewed on mobile phones, according to Ralph Simon, head of the London-based Mobilium Group.

Asked in Philadelphia if artists felt they were competing with the $200-million-raising-legacy of Live Aid, Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott said, “We’re not competing with anybody. Everybody wins today.”

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