The queen of pop was going green Saturday, as Madonna got set to headline the London stage of Al Gore's global Live Earth extravaganza. The Material Girl was flaunting her eco-friendly side as part of an eclectic show at the city's newly rebuilt Wembley Stadium that includes the Beastie Boys, the Pussycat Dolls and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Israel urged to 'act now' against global warming
The SOS All-Stars - a group of dozens of drummers led by Roger Taylor from Queen, Taylor Hawkins from Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers' Chad Smith - kicked off the London concert with a battery of percussion set to flashing images of wildlife, pollution, alternative energy sources and the Earth seen from space.
More than 60,000 fans were arriving at the open-air the stadium, as London enjoyed a rare sunny day after an unseasonably chilly month of rain. It is one of nine gigs involving some 150 acts around the world aimed at raising awareness about climate change and backed by Gore, the former US vice president turned green campaigner.
The 24-hour music marathon kicked off in Tokyo, Shanghai and Sydney, Australia, where the show opened with a traditional welcome by a group of white-painted Aboriginal tribal leaders.
The London lineup also includes James Blunt, David Gray, 80s chart-toppers Duran Duran, The Black Eyed Peas, Foo Fighters, Metallica and spoof metal band Spinal Tap.
Live Earth was to wrap up later Saturday with a New York show - actually held in nearby in East Rutherford, New Jersey - featuring The Police, Smashing Pumpkins, Alicia Keys and Bon Jovi.
Gore, whose campaign to force global warming onto the international political stage inspired the event, made a live video appearance from Washington to open the first show on the other side of the world in Sydney.
He took the technology a step further a few hours later, appearing on stage in Tokyo as a hologram to deliver his message.
"Global warming is the greatest challenge facing our planet, and the gravest we've ever faced," said Gore - the only person in sight wearing a suit.
"But it's one problem we can solve if we come together as one and take action and drive our neighbors, businesses and governments to act as well. That's what Live Earth is all about."
For the most part, the diverse range of performers wholeheartedly backed the call. Organizers promised the huge shows were made eco-friendly by using recycled goods and buying carbon credits to offset the inevitable high power bills.
In Sydney, an estimated 50,000 people grooved through a set by former professional surfer-cum singer-guitarist Jack Johnson, banged their heads to afro- haired 1970s retro rockers Wolfmother, and gave a re-formed Crowded House a rapturous homecoming.
"This is so cool," Neil Finn, the singer-guitarist who penned the band's 1987 breakthrough "Don't Dream It's Over" and other hits. "We are the groundswell."
When a glitch cut the massive on-stage light display backdrop two songs before the end, Finn didn't miss a beat.
"As long as the PA's going, everything's all right," he said. "Who needs lights anyway?
Finn, like others on the bill, said Saturday's event drew a line in the sand for rock concerts: from now on, offsetting the carbon emissions caused by powering big shows must be factored in to the cost of putting them on.
In Tokyo, Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington said in halting Japanese that the US rap-metal act had joined the show "because we can make a difference if we only try."
"Linkin Park will try to have an environment-friendly concert tour," he said.
The Tokyo concert kicked off with a high-tech, laser- and light-drenched performance by virtual-reality act Genki Rockets. Later, popular Japanese singer Ayaka urged fans to take up the concerts' theme of changing their daily habits as a first step to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.
In Shanghai, a lineup of largely local acts was joined by British singer Sarah Brightman. The show was less a concert than a made for television event, with an audience of just 3,000, seated on bleachers arranged before the riverside Oriental Pearl television tower.
Aboriginal tribal leaders with white-painted bodies and shaking eucalyptus fronds were the first to take the stage in Sydney, singing and dancing a traditional welcome to the sounds of a didgeridoo, a wind pipe made from a hollow tree branch.
Problems and changes to the series continued right down to the last minute, with a ninth concert - in Washington, DC - added on Friday and a court battle continuing in Brazil to decide whether the show there could go ahead as planned.
Bob Geldof, who organized the Live Aid and Live 8 anti-poverty concerts, thought Gore's energies were misplaced.
"I hope they're a success," Geldof said. "But why is he (Gore) actually organizing them? To make us aware of the greenhouse effect? Everybody's known about that problem for years. We are all ... conscious of global warming."
Other critics say that Live Earth lacks achievable goals, and that jet-setting rock stars whose amplifier stacks chew through power may send mixed messages about energy conservation.
The series rolls west through Saturday, from Sydney to Tokyo, Shanghai, Johannesburg, Hamburg, London, Rio de Janeiro, New Jersey and Washington.
Organizers were predicting live broadcasts on cable television and the Internet could reach up to 2 billion people.
On the Net: http://www.liveearth.org