Bob Geldof, who 20 years ago put together the famine-relief concerts of Live Aid -- the biggest musical event in history -- yesterday announced that five enormous, free concerts would be held July 2 in Philadelphia, London, Paris, Berlin and Rome.
The extravaganza, which will feature many of the biggest names in pop music, will not be intended to raise funds. Rather, it is aimed at spotlighting the problem of poverty in developing African countries just days before President Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Russian President Vladimir Putin and leaders of five other industrial nations gather for the G8 Summit in Scotland. Accordingly, Geldof has named his event Live 8.
The lineup for the London concert is to include U2, Paul McCartney, Elton John, R.E.M., Sting, Madonna, the Cure, Coldplay, Mariah Carey, Annie Lennox and Velvet Revolver. Philadelphia can expect to see the Dave Matthews Band, Stevie Wonder, Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Bon Jovi, Maroon 5, P. Diddy and a half dozen others. The other European concerts are to feature such stars as Andrea Bocelli, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Duran Duran, Jamiroquai, Youssou N'Dour, Lauryn Hill, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Brian Wilson.
The main themes of the G8 summit, set for July 6-8, are social, political and economic conditions that have left almost one billion people living in extreme poverty, almost half of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
"The G8 leaders have it within their power to alter history," Geldof said yesterday in London. "They will only have the will to do so if millions of people show them that enough is enough. We understand precisely what must be done to free the weak, the hungry and the sick from the awful, needless condition of their lives. Now is the time to do it. This isn't about charity, it's about justice."
Details on how to attend Live 8 will be announced next week. Some venues will not require tickets, but those for the London concert, for instance, will be allocated via a text message lottery. The concerts are each expected to draw up to 150,000 people.
In Europe, the concerts will take place in huge spaces designed for public gatherings: Hyde Park in London, Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Circus Maximus in Rome and, in Paris, either the foot of the Eiffel Tower or Versailles. The Philadelphia concert will occupy the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, whose steps were made famous in the film "Rocky." (Elton John will be headlining an AIDS-relief concert at the same location two days later.)
Live 8 organizers had hoped that Washington's National Mall would be the American site, but it was already booked through July 4 for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and other holiday weekend events. A Park Service spokesperson said yesterday that permits must be sought a year in advance of an event's setup date.
Live 8 is, like Live Aid, something of a last-minute venture. Until recently, Geldof had dismissed the notion of a follow-up to Live Aid and threatened legal action against anyone who attempted to appropriate the Live Aid trademark.
"It was like 'Groundhog Day' for me," Geldof said by telephone yesterday afternoon. Geldof had wanted Washington to be a Live Aid site 20 years ago but ran into similar problems, made more serious today by security issues: "People were very cooperative and we were offered a site in Washington, but it was too small . . . And the police are really strung completely out over Independence weekend, so it was totally understandable."
Geldof said there might be additional concerts in the other three G8 countries -- Japan, Canada and Russia.
As with Live Aid, the Live 8 concerts are expected to be carried globally on television and, this time around, over the Internet via America Online. It's been estimated that the simultaneous Live Aid concerts July 13, 1985, at London's Wembley Stadium and Philadelphia's JFK Stadium (both have since been torn down) reached a worldwide audience of 1.4 million. Those concerts and a concurrent telethon raised $245 million for famine relief in Africa.
Although Live 8 is not envisioned as a fundraiser, corporate sponsors are being enlisted to defray the expenses of putting on the shows.
Geldof notes that a major difference between Live Aid and Live 8 is the global reach of the Internet. He expects the same level of television coverage this time around, although he said he fears such coverage "may be more difficult in America, where they've become more politically timid."
"But this is not of the left or right," Geldof insisted. "Can we agree that to die of want in a world of surpluses is not only intellectually absurd, it is morally repulsive? If we can, what's it got to do with left or right? Let's move forward."
The concerts, as well as broadcasts and webcasts, will include informational public-service announcements. "The essential messaging -- Live 8 and why it's called that -- will be done through the press until it becomes a recognizable brand, particularly in America where recognition of G8 isn't so wide," said Geldof, adding that some artists' performances will be supported by documentary footage about Africa and G8.
Geldof, whose relatively modest musical career with a band called the Boomtown Rats was dramatically eclipsed by his leadership of Live Aid campaigns, was joined in London by Elton John and former French Culture Minister Jack Lang. Geldof said, "We will not tolerate the further pain of the poor while we have the financial and moral means to prevent it."
"We don't want people's money," Geldof added. "We want them."
Where 1985's Live Aid events were largely apolitical, the Live 8 concerts are a starting point for a worldwide campaign called the Global Call to Action Against Poverty. In the United States, it's dubbed ONE, in France, "2005: Plus D'Excuses" ("2005: No More Excuses"). In England, it operates as Make Poverty History, which has announced a march called A Long Walk to Justice. It will set off on the day of the Hyde Park concert from London to Edinburgh (a distance of 413 miles), picking up people along the way and arriving in time for the summit.
Organizers, who have said they hope to get up to a million people to Edinburgh, are calling for complete debt cancellation for African nations, as well as more and better aid and trade terms. There have been reports in the Scottish media of a massive Edinburgh concert featuring Coldplay, Scottish acts Franz Ferdinand and Travis and others. An official announcement about that is expected next week.
Geldof, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and recognized by Queen Elizabeth II in 1986 for his previous humanitarian efforts, said yesterday that "at the G8 summit, those eight men will have the choice to change the way our world works . . . but they won't unless enough people tell them to. That is why Live 8 is happening."