On July 7, a smorgasbord of acts gathered on seven continents to argue that it is easy being green. Critics of Live Earth say the Al Gore-led festival was hardly eco-friendly, what with the transportation involved and waste generated. (Gore insists awareness will more than offset bad carbon karma.) But since we attended the school of rock, and not the school of science, we’ll just stick to critiquing the music.
STRANGE BEDFELLOWS In London, Madonna paired up with members of NYC gypsy-punk outfit Gogol Bordello for an excellently demented ”La Isla Bonita” redux; less awesome was her treacly, inspired-by-Live-Earth ballad ”Hey You.” Back in New Jersey, Kanye West and John Mayer joined the Police for a shambolic take on ”Message in a Bottle” — along with a less desirable guest, Sting’s TelePrompTer. It was Keith Urban and Alicia Keys, however, who achieved the most convincing act of synchronicity: Their incendiary cover of the Rolling Stones’ ”Gimme Shelter” owned the day.
REUNITED, AND IT FELT…A LITTLE AARP Like the Police, several other rock raisins (we kid! God bless yoga) came together for the cause. Genesis — minus original member Peter Gabriel but plus Phil Collins — reprised Reagan-era oldies (”Invisible Touch,” ”Land of Confusion”) that left young Londoners nonplussed, though thrilled many a gray ponytail. And turning it up to 11 over there? The world’s best fake band, Spinal Tap, in fine, hairy form, teaming up with a bevy of musicians (among them members of Metallica) and debuting their delightfully clueless, climate-minded single ”Warmer Than Hell.”
GLOBE-TROTTERS Linkin Park tuned in Tokyo with a raw, appropriately angsty rendition of ”Numb,” while Rihanna, also in Japan, prowled the stage in a kittenish catsuit. Alas, Miss Thing could not sing and dance without gasping for air — nor could Shakira in Hamburg, Germany (hips don’t lie, and neither does a live-feed mic). Lastly, our Favorite New Band Alert: indie rockers/research scientists Nunatak, who played one of the day’s best, if unlikeliest, sets to an audience of waddling penguins in Antarctica.
THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO ”HMMM” Stateside, Kanye West’s Ziggy Stardust-slash-Harajuku Girls lady orchestra. John Mayer’s passing-a-kidney-stone face while hitting the tough notes (sounded good, looked disturbing). And Melissa Etheridge, who earned the Wordy McWorderson Award for her well-intentioned but odd 20-minute eco-ramble. Next time, Mel, keep it like your new hairdo and the best of the fest’s sets: short and sweet. — Additional reporting by Tim Stack and Simon-Vozick Levison
Backstory Kevin Wall, who produced the event with Al Gore, also helped orchestrate 1985’s Live Aid and 2005’s Live 8 with…Mr. Bob Geldof. In May, Sir Bob reportedly slammed Live Earth, saying, ”We are all f—ing conscious of global warming.”