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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Live 8 Rocks the Globe, Spotlighting African Aid

APThe crowd standing in front of the stage behind St. Basil's Cathedral during Moscow's Live 8 concert on Saturday.
LONDON -- Bono effortlessly worked the crowd. Half a globe away, Bjork strutted the stage. Bill Gates was cheered like a rock star. And on the continent that inspired the unprecedented Live 8 extravaganza, Nelson Mandela outshone them all.

Live 8's long, winding road around the globe Saturday has been an eclectic marathon. From Johannesburg to Philadelphia, Berlin to Tokyo and Rome to Barrie, Ontario, musicians and fans sang and danced through a global music festival to raise awareness of African poverty and pressure the world's most powerful leaders to do something about it at the Group of Eight summit in Scotland this week.

In Hyde Park in London, the preternaturally scruffy Sir Bob Geldof, the former Boomtown Rat and present-day events organizer, performed an old favorite, "I Don't Like Mondays," while the clean-cut billionaire Gates told the cheering crowd that "some day in the future, all the people in the world will be able to lead a healthy life."

Madonna performed "Like a Prayer" hand-in-hand with Birham Woldu, an Ethiopian woman who as a malnourished toddler appeared in some of the most wrenching footage of the 1984-85 famine.

Conceived only in May and organized in haste, with additions popping up at the last minute, the Live 8 shows were intended to send a loud message to the leaders of the G8 countries.

In Johannesburg, some 40,000 people gathered to listen to the music and to denounce the selfishness of the world's richest countries.

"They owe us," said the South African pop star Zola, speaking of Europe. "They are the ones who brought slavery, killed our ancestors. If anybody must pay, they must pay us back so that we can have jobs and education."

Mandela drew bigger cheers than any of the acts at Mary Fitzgerald Square. "History and the generations to come will judge our leaders by the decisions they make in the coming weeks," Mandela told a crowd of more than 8,000. "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 Philadelphia, an estimated 1.5 million people listened to Destiny's Child and the Black-Eyed Peas and heard actor Will Smith relay that in Africa, one child dies every three seconds. Elsewhere, some stars seemed unsure of their figures -- in London, performers could not agree whether 50,000 Africans die of poverty per day, or 20,000 -- but the sentiment was there.

The concert in Johannesburg and a concert featuring African artists in southwestern England were organized following criticism that African artists had been left out of the Live 8 concerts, despite the event's aim to raise awareness of the continent's plight.

"This is our moment; this is our time; this is our chance to stand up for what's right," Bono of U2 told the London crowd, saying 3,000 Africans die every day due to disease-carrying mosquitoes.


Toru Hanai / Reuters

Iceland's Bjork performing at Makuhari Messe in Japan's Live 8 concert.

U2 led off the concert here, playing "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" along with one of its composers, Sir Paul McCartney. The familiar opening line -- "It was 20 years ago today" -- was an affectionate reference to Live Aid, the multiact extravaganza staged in 1985, also by Geldof, to raise money directly for African famine relief.

According to Geldof, who sweet-talked, strong-armed and shamed politicians and musicians into endorsing and taking part in the 10 concerts, the collective gatherings constituted "the largest mandate for action in history." Among his "demands" were that the G8 leaders increase aid to Africa by $25 billion, as well as send an additional $25 billion to non-African impoverished countries.

The concerts included more than 200 musical acts scheduled to play more than 69 hours of music. Organizers said 5.5 billion people would be able to watch or listen on the Internet and on over 182 television channels and 2,000 radio networks and stations. Chris Martin, the frontman of Coldplay, which performed in London, called the concerts "the greatest thing that's ever been organized, probably, in the history of the world."

Some concerts proved not as well-attended as expected. The concert in Japan drew just 10,000, in a stadium that holds twice that many.

At the Circus Maximus in Rome, the crowd was estimated at about 200,000, and enthusiasm was high. "I wanted to raise their awareness about issues like canceling the debt," Isabella Dandina said of her three teenage children.

Geldof has been doing his best to prod politicians into paying attention, publicly berating Italy and Canada, saying they do not spend enough money on foreign aid.

(AP, NYT)