Sydney Australia The Live Earth global concert series kicked off today with an aboriginal group dancing and singing a traditional welcome at the first venue in Sydney.
Tribal leaders with white-painted bodies and shaking eucalyptus fronds were the first of more than 150 performers at the eight concert, 24-hour series to raise awareness about climate change.
The performance was immediately followed by a video greeting from former Vice President Al Gore, whose campaign to force global warming onto the international political agenda inspired the event.
A ninth venue was added Friday to the global concert series whose worldwide lineup includes Madonna, Metallica, the Police and Kanye West.
Country music stars Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood will headline a show in Washington, D.C., on the National Mall, about two blocks from the U.S. Capitol. The biggest names will appear at Live Earth concerts in London and the United States, with more modest lineups of mostly local and regional acts in Australia, Japan, China, South Africa, Brazil and Germany.
Live Earth was inspired and is backed by former Gore's campaign to force global warming onto the international political agenda by generating a groundswell of public concern.
But critics say that it lacks achievable goals, and that bringing in jet-setting rock stars in fuel-guzzling airliners to plug in to amplifier stacks and cranking up the sound may send mixed messages about energy conservation.
"The last thing the planet needs is a rock concert," The Who's singer, Roger Daltrey, recently told a British newspaper.
Organizers say the concerts will be as green as possible, with a tally of energy use being kept. Proceeds from ticket sales will go toward distributing power-efficient light bulbs and other measures that will offset the shows' greenhouse gas emissions, they say.
"This is going to be the greenest event of its kind, ever," Gore told The Associated Press recently. "The carbon offsets and the innovative practices that are being used to make this a green event, I think, will set the standard for years to come."
In Johannesburg, four-time Grammy nominee Angelique Kidjo offered a tart response to Daltrey's comment. "Criticism is easy," she said during a news conference Friday that involved performers in the local concert. "And there is a kind of fashion of cynical people around us. You are cynical - what the hell are you doing to change the world? Get your butt out there. Do something."
And it is beyond time to do so, she explained.
"Climate change is visible today, we can see that now. And if you can talk to farmers they will tell you that their crops that they are harvesting are not the same as before. That for me is a wake-up call because if we cannot eat, we cannot sustain ourselves. We don't eat cameras, we don't eat cars, we eat food."
Besides some criticism, Live Earth has run into some organizational hiccups. A judge canceled the Brazil concert because of security concerns before reversing the decision just two days before the event. On Friday, a public prosecutor appealed the decision. Also, a lukewarm public interest caused a planned show in Istanbul, Turkey to be called off.
But organizers were predicting live broadcasts on cable television and the Internet could reach up to 2 billion people. Scores of short films and public service announcements will be aired giving the audience tips about how to conserve energy and reduce their environmental impact.
Rob Hirst, drummer for Midnight Oil and performing at Live Earth in his new band the Ghostwriters, said at the launch of the Sydney concert lineup that the traditional rock star lifestyle was not eco-friendly.
"Any of the musicians here who've spent 24-to-30 years roaming the globe on planes, trains and automobiles should have a mighty guilt complex about what they've done to the environment," Hirst was quoted as saying by local media. "But it's not too late to change."
The Tokyo concert, featuring artists including Ai Otsuka, Kumi Koda and Linkin Park, comes next, followed by the other cities. Madonna and the Black Eyed Peas topline London, while the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Alicia Keys are among the acts in the United States.