EmptyWembley Stadium, London
Saturday, July 7
A lack of focus and constant lectures on the dire state of the world meant that the 70,000-plus crowd at Wembley Stadium for the nine-hour London Live Earth concert had to cherry-pick its pleasures. But there were many, as Black Eyed Peas, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica and Foo Fighters, all in top form, were not going to let the day get away without a party.
Such artists as Duran Duran, James Blunt, the Beastie Boys and Genesis, who opened the show, and Madonna, who closed it, played to their constituencies. U.K. bands Razorlight, Snow Patrol, Bloc Party and Keane contributed solid sets, while another British group, Kasabian, Scottish singer Paolo Nutini, Ireland's Damien Rice and jazzy Corinne Bailey Rae made dazzling impressions. And Spinal Tap provided a few laughs.
The weather was kind, but the event's obvious contradictions and fuzzy focus were not helped by the stream of celebrities including Chris Rock, Eddie Izzard, Gerard Butler, Kyle MacLachlan and Thandie Newton delivering homilies on the importance of turning off the lights at home. Late in the show, poor Terence Stamp had to oversee a symbolic switching off of Wembley's lights, which prompted a light show of camera flashes. Only when hot British comic Russell Brand came on in the evening with his bright and challenging observations between acts did the production achieve much cohesion.
There were no seats on the pitch as there had been at last week's Concert for Diana, so the field was packed with standing fans obviously eager for a good time. Genesis took to the stage following a thunderous percussion introduction, but singer Phil Collins appeared to be performing by rote. Razorlight and Snow Patrol picked up the pace, but it was Rice's "The Blower's Daughter" that caught the imagination, and his delivery, with David Gray, of the fatalistic "Que Sera Sera" had the crowd singing.
Kasabian did a lively set followed by Nutini, who seems awkward onstage but has a rich and impressive voice and a dynamite band. Black Eyed Peas bounded out in obvious high spirits, and while an attempt to mark the solemnity of the day's cause dampened things for a bit, the band recovered in a soaring delivery of "Where Is the Love?"
Bailey Rae performed her hit "Put Your Records On" and, in keeping with the day's theme, also performed Marvin Gaye's "Mercy Mercy Me" with John Legend, who had done a single number earlier. New York's U.K.-based Terra Naomi did her hit "Say It's Possible." Duran Duran, enjoying a second bite at the big time, received a warm reception from their fans, but nothing like the noise made when Red Hot Chili Peppers came on. The stadium was filled to capacity by then, and the band's barnstorming enthusiasm had everyone rocking. Metallica also got a loud greeting, and while the accompanying clips of old elephants with long tusks seemed fitting, they haven't forgotten how to kick up a ruckus.
Rob Reiner was on hand to introduce Harry Shearer, Michael McKean and Christopher Guest in the roles from their 1984 movie "This Is Spinal Tap." They did "Stonehenge," complete with fake rocks and Druids, "Warmer Than Hell" and "Big Bottom," and if it wasn't terribly funny, the lingering goodwill for the film got them through.
The evening proceeded with Blunt followed by the Beastie Boys and then Pussycat Dolls, trying desperately to appear sexy but not succeeding. Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters could have gone on all night with their fiery rock 'n' roll and probably would have but for the need for another lecture about climate change and Madonna's finale.
The incredibly fit but coldly mechanical star performed a song she'd written for the night titled "Hey You," in which she personally ordered everyone to save the world. "Ray of Light" led to "La Isla Bonita" and "Hung Up," with the lyric "Time goes by so slowly," which suddenly appeared to be true.