Review of Various Artists: Live Earth: The Concerts for a Climate in Crisis
Label
WEA/Reprise
Live Earth: The Concerts for a Climate in Crisis

Reviewed by Greg M. Schwartz

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his CD/2DVD package brings together highlight performances, filmed around the globe, from the July 7, 2007 concerts to raise awareness about global warming. The organizers billed it as the largest global entertainment event ever, and when you consider the Internet and TV audiences that joined the stadium crowds on six continents, they just might have been right.

There are a wide variety of popular artists represented, offering a little something for everyone. Some of the performances stand out more than others, and a few of the song selections might be better than others (each artist gets only one song in the package), but the concluding group of performances at Giants Stadium alone makes this collection a worthy keepsake and commemoration of where the pop and rock music world was at in 2007.

The closing segment from the Giants Stadium show kicks off with Al Gore introducing hometown heroes Bon Jovi, who open their set with “Wanted Dead or Alive,” which shows remarkable staying power for a song that topped the charts 20 years earlier. The crowd sings along, and the harmonies between Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora resonate with the timeless freshness of a rock classic.

Lenny Kravitz checks in from Brazil during the break with a rip-rocking reading of “Are You Gonna Go My Way” before the disc goes back to Jersey for the Smashing Pumpkins’ performance of “United States,” the epic centerpiece of their 2007 comeback album, Zeitgeist. When head Pumpkin Billy Corgan sings “Tonight I wanna fight a revolution,” the message to save the planet resonates even more powerfully. With a heavy tune that recalls the vibe of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” the Pumpkins deliver a tailor-made slice of stadium rock. Corgan even quotes from Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner” during his feedback-drenched solo, further recalling the 1960s era of social activism.

The organizers needed to pull an ace out of their deck to follow the Pumpkins’ bravura performance, and they did just that by having Pink Floyd legend Roger Waters go on next. Waters’ set-closing performance of “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)” is nothing short of a total triumph. From the helicopter sounds to the inflatable flying pig that reads “SOS – Save our sausages,” to the Trenton children’s choir that joins the band onstage, Waters pulls out all the stops to deliver a stirring rendition of one of the original stadium rock classics. The entire stadium sings along on the “we don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control” chorus, a classic rock moment that can still send chills up the spine.

The Giants Stadium show ends with headliners the Police, who are represented here with set opener “Driven to Tears.” The performance is strong, with guitarist Andy Summer delivering some particularly hot licks and drummer Stewart Copeland playing superbly, although one might think this once-in-a-lifetime event would have been better represented with set closer “Message in a Bottle,” featuring memorable guest spots by John Mayer and Kanye West.

Other highlights on Disc Two include Keith Urban and Alicia Keys’ sizzling performance of the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” where Keys steals the show with her impassioned vocals and electric piano work. Wolfmother’s “Woman” starts off as a somewhat derivatively Zeppish number, but becomes one of the most jammed-out performances of the day with an extended blues rock jam that features the Wembley Stadium crowd chanting “S-O-S!” Chris Cornell delivers the Soundgarden classic “Black Hole Sun” to the Hamburg crowd, and while he still sounds great, one can’t help but think that “Rusty Cage” might have been more appropriate for the activist vibe.

The first disc kicks off with a unique drum jam in London led by Queen’s Roger Taylor, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith and the Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins, featuring the immortal “We Will Rock You” beat. The reunited Genesis then offers an “Invisible Touch” that borders on comical, with guitarist Mike Rutherford looking like he might melt in the sun. Snow Patrol pick things up for the Wembley Stadium crowd with a moving reading of “Shut Your Eyes,” while up-and-comer KT Tunstall (wearing a “Save the Future” tank top) rocks the afternoon crowd in Jersey with “Suddenly I See.”

The Black Eyed Peas deliver one of the most genuinely socially conscious tunes of the day with a rousing rendition of their hit “Where Is the Love,” and Duran Duran come up with one of the top pleasant surprises of the day with their “Planet Earth.” Simon LeBon, John Taylor and company deliver a tight, high-energy performance that ranks among the day’s best. Back in Jersey, John Mayer offers up a tepid reading of “Gravity,” but saves it with one of the day’s smokingest guitar solos.

Corrine Bailey Rae comes through with a groovy, diva-worthy take on Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me,” and Metallica rock Wembley with “Sad but True,” without a doubt the day’s heaviest cut. James Hetfield is starting to show some gray, but Metallica come through with a typically powerful performance.

Melissa Etheridge performs an impassioned “I Need to Wake Up,” her theme from Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” which leads to Gore coming onstage to tell the Jersey crowd about his plan to save the planet. This makes for a nice segue into the Dave Mathews Band’s apropos performance of “Too Much,” which starts off with a hot jam from the horn section.

Other highlights include the Beastie Boys rocking out on “Intergalactic,” Rihanna delivering a hot performance of her mega-hit “Umbrella,” and more hard rock with Linkin Park energizing the Japanese crowd with “Bleed It Out” and the Foo Fighters rocking Wembley with a smashing rendition of “Times Like These.” Madonna’s “Hey You” also offers an appropriate call to action, and in richly melodic fashion.

Producers of multi-artist compilations like this one can have a tricky time finding the right mix to appeal to a broad base of music fans, but the diverse lineup presented here does an admirable job of mixing hot current artists with alt-rock and classic rock faves from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. The only really conspicuous absence might be Green Day’s furious reading of “American Idiot” to the Hamburg crowd. The package also includes a 15-track CD here to listen to in your car, but none of the tracks vary from the DVD.

Extras include documentary segments about how the show was put together, featuring interviews with Al Gore and various artists, as well as a segment on “How You Can Make a Difference.” As to whether the event has succeeded in catalyzing the masses to be more mindful of how their personal habits affect the planet, time can only tell. But the message is delivered loud and clear with a plethora of memorable performances.

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