Less than two weeks from now, on the auspicious date of July 7, 2007, producer Kevin Wall will preside over the Live Earth global warming concerts that have so far been defined by superlatives: 24 hours, on seven continents, with more than 100 musicians, reaching what he says will be 2 billion people.
In short, it’s “save the Earth.” But Wall cautions: “There is not a silver bullet here. We have spent 200 years creating the problem. It is not going to be solved in one concert and one year.”
And that is perhaps the biggest challenge Wall and partner Al Gore face in staging Live Earth, which, unlike other music marathons like LiveAid, Farm Aid or Live 8 (which Wall produced with Bob Geldof), doesn’t come with an easy action plan. It’s not about sending in money to help the cause; rather, it’s a message to people to change their lifestyles.
That has already stirred some consternation. Geldof himself dismissed it as “just another pop concert” because it lacked political action. The Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant said the idea of rock stars “lecturing people” “looks arrogant.” And any of the participants are bound to be under a great deal more scrutiny to practice what they preach.
“In most cases, the artists are on commercial flights,” Wall says. “In most cases, the artists live pretty close to the venue, New York and London. So we don’t have a huge carbon footprint, so to speak.”
Those performers who do use private jets will be given so-called “carbon offsets.”
The events themselves are being fashioned into what he calls a “green standard,” for everything from which types of cups are used at concessions to where the stadium gets its power.
Over the next two weeks, the who’s who of artists, ranging from Madonna to the Police and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, are each being teamed with scientists, and will have an instruction handbook on the climate crisis. All is intended to help them talk about the issue on stage.
But mostly, “it is lead by example,” Wall says. “It is a big move when you see someone move from an SUV in a posse to a smart car.”
A veteran concert promoter and consummate showman, who has a reputation as a straight shooter, Wall hatched the idea of a day of concerts after screening Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.” Surely bolstered by Wall’s success in pulling off Live 8, Gore signed on, and the two headlined a press conference in February to announce the event, with NBC and its various cable properties as the host network.
While they secured venues in cities from Shanghai to Sydney to Johannesburg, they ran into a roadblock in Washington, D.C. The National Park Service rejected plans to stage the event on the National Mall, citing other bookings, and then some Senate Republicans blocked efforts to stage it on Capitol grounds. They looked at three sites in New York City before crossing the Hudson River to Giants Stadium.
Wall believes opposition has moved “to the fringes.”
“Six months ago people were trying to create a divide,” Wall says. “Today I think we are past that. Today if I walk into Washington, I believe we would be doing it on the Washington Mall. But I couldn’t wait.”
He also says Geldof — a friend — is “incorrect,” adding that the event will add a host of concrete steps to solve the climate crisis, including the release of a new book, public service announcements, short films (screening at this week’s L.A. Film Festival) and what is called a “global-warming manifesto.”
So how do they define success?
He calls this a “launch event” with several years of follow-up events.
“Ultimately, what this concert provides is a tipping point of behavioral change,” Wall says. “And that behavior change we will start to see happening on editorial pages, what people are buying, and also how it is defining elections around the world in terms of what the issues are.”
So if all goes well, the message will be in many minds on July 8. Wall himself has plans for that day. “I think I’ll take a nap.”