Live 8 Rocks The World

Only time will tell if the historic Live 8 shows succeed in convincing world leaders to relieve African debt and poverty, but one thing’s for sure: The July 2nd concert extravaganza was unprecedented in its magnitude and star power.

From the seemingly inconceivable Pink Floyd reunion in London to a five-minute standing ovation for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, a sense of grand purpose permeated the day-long event. More than 1 million fans attended the 10 concerts, with an estimated 2 billion tuning in via television, Internet and radio.

Philadelphia attracted the single biggest crowd, with a reported 800,000 attendees stretching a mile down Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Most fans had to watch the action on huge video screens rather than the actual stage.

Rappers Will Smith, Jay-Z and Kanye West rallied the Philly crowd with declarations of “interdependence” and pointed demands for the G8 leaders. In a moment broadcast live worldwide, Smith led the audience in snapping their fingers every three seconds to symbolize the child death rate in Africa.

The Philly show closed with a rousing set from perennial crowd-pleaser Stevie Wonder, backed by an 11-piece band.

Justin Timberlake and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs were prominent no-shows, with reports several days later suggesting the two were never officially booked.

Prior to the Philadelphia show, Larry Magid of the Clear Channel-owned Electric Factory Concerts dismissed suggestions that organizers were feeling overwhelmed.

“Our concern is the amount of press we have to be nice to,” Magid told the Philadelphia Daily News. The gracious promoter partnered with Bob Geldof on the original Live Aid 20 years earlier.

MTV drew the ire of many a critic and fan for its coverage of the event, during which several acts – including Pink Floyd – were cut off mid-song in favor of commercials and uninspired chatter from the hosts. The Los Angeles Times called the network’s coverage “beyond embarrassing,” “pitiful” and “pathetic.”

AOL, however, drew critical praise and 175,000 simultaneous viewers – an Internet record – for its live video feeds of the concerts. The site had more than 5 million hits in what could prove a watershed moment for online broadcasts.

By the time it was all said and done, hundreds of performers entertained fans in Philadelphia, London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Johannesburg, Moscow, Toronto, Tokyo and Cornwall (England). Live 8 finished with Neil Young leading 35,000 Canadian fans in a singalong of “Rockin’ In The Free World.”

Four days later, Live 8 masterminds Geldof and Midge Ure arrived in Scotland, where the campaign closed with the “Long Walk To Justice” rally and concert. Acts including James Brown, Annie Lennox, Snow Patrol, The Proclaimers and the organizers themselves performed for 50,000 fans at Murrayfield stadium.

See International News for more details.