Washington Was Too Hot, Politically, For Al Gore's Live Earth Concert

By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Washington has given Al Gore's global-warming concert the cold shoulder, so the former vice president has decided to move "Live Earth" to more hospitable climes: the swamplands of New Jersey.

The event will take place July 7 at Giants Stadium in the New York suburb of East Rutherford, N.J., with the Police, the Dave Matthews Band, Alicia Keys, Fall Out Boy, Akon, Melissa Etheridge, Kanye West and Bon Jovi among the 16 scheduled performers. It will be one of seven massive concerts staged around the world that day to bring attention to Gore's effort to raise concern about global climate change.

Gore and the Live Earth producers had hoped to bring the North American Live Earth show to Washington, but finding a suitable venue here proved difficult. The obvious choice -- the Mall -- was booked for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival as well as a Christian festival called Together One Unity, and a bipartisan resolution to bring the concert to the Capitol grounds ran into Republican roadblocks. A last-ditch effort to find an alternative location in Washington proved futile.

So yesterday, Gore and Live Earth Executive Producer Kevin Wall announced that they were going to the Garden State.

"I would have loved to have been in Washington," Wall said. "We're disappointed it didn't work out, but we're also happy to be at Giants Stadium. A lot of cities were competing to get this show, and the state of New Jersey and the city of New York opened up their arms and said to come here."

Last month it appeared that Live Earth might come to the Capitol through an act of Congress. After organizers ran into scheduling problems on the Mall, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) introduced a resolution authorizing use of the Capitol's west side for the concert.

But when Reid tried to pass the measure by unanimous consent, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) objected, saying more time was needed to review the resolution. ("The senator thinks it's important, before you vote on a resolution, to be able to read it," McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said yesterday.)

Several days later, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, vowed to block Live Earth from coming to the Capitol, telling the Hill newspaper that "there has never been a partisan political event at the Capitol, and this is a partisan political event."

Marc Morano, Inhofe's environmental committee spokesman, said yesterday that the senator "is pleased to see the concert has moved to New Jersey. There is enough politicking in Washington already. We should preserve the tradition of nonpartisan events on the Capitol grounds."

Snowe, who co-authored the measure to bring Live Earth to the Capitol, was "disappointed" by the outcome, according to her spokesman, David Snepp. "This is the perfect venue to focus attention on what Senator Snowe calls one of the most pressing issues of our day," Snepp said. "She tried hard to convince her colleagues that this was an appropriate and fitting venue. But at the same time, she's glad it's found a home and is hoping for the concert and the awareness that it brings to be a big success."

Wall said: "I was a little shocked by what happened in Washington. I'm not a political guy at all. The only politician I know is Al Gore. I didn't want it to be politicized. It's not a political show. I think it's a red alert about an environmental issue that the world has to come together on."

Tickets to the Giants Stadium concert will go on sale Monday. Pricing hasn't been set, but Wall estimated that they'd "average around $100 or $125." Had Live Earth been staged on the Mall or at the Capitol, admission would have been free, he said. Ticket revenue will help cover the facility fee at the Meadowlands sports complex.

Other scheduled U.S. performers announced yesterday include John Mayer, AFI, Kelly Clarkson, Smashing Pumpkins, Rihanna, Ludacris, KT Tunstall and Pink Floyd's Roger Waters.

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