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Live 8 'like a prayer'

| Sunday, July 3, 2005

LONDON -- Bono worked the crowd. Half a globe away, Bjork strutted the stage. Bill Gates was cheered like a rock star. And on the continent that inspired Saturday's unprecedented Live 8 extravaganza, Nelson Mandela outshone them all.

From Philadelphia to Johannesburg, Berlin to Tokyo, Rome to Moscow, hundreds of the world's top musicians and more than 1 million of their fans gathered for a music marathon designed to pressure the world's most powerful leaders into fighting African poverty.

Twenty years after he masterminded the legendary Live Aid concerts, rocker Bob Geldof promised to deliver "the greatest concert ever," broadcast live around the world on television and the Internet. His goal -- squeezing $25 billion in African aid out of the upcoming Group of Eight summit this week in Scotland.

On Independence Day weekend in the United States, actor Will Smith hosted the Live 8 show in Philadelphia. He said people have united for a "declaration of interdependence."

"Today we hold this truth to be self-evident: We are all in this together," Smith said.

Via satellite, he led the global audience in snapping their fingers every three seconds -- signifying the child death rate in Africa.

Taking the stage in Johannesburg, Mandela received a five-minute ovation.

"History and the generations to come will judge our leaders by the decisions they make in the coming weeks," Mandela told the crowd of more than 8,000 people. "I say to all those leaders: 'Do not look the other way, do not hesitate. ... It is within your power to prevent a genocide.' "

In London's Hyde Park, Paul McCartney and U2 opened the flagship show of the free 10-concert festival with a rousing performance of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

A thunderous roar erupted from the crowd of about 200,000 as the two icons belted out the first line: "It was 20 years ago today ... " -- a nod to the mammoth Live Aid benefit that raised millions for African famine relief in 1985.

Bono, dressed in black and wearing his trademark wraparound shades, wrapped the crowd around his finger, enticing tens of thousands to sing along to the anthemic "One" and "Beautiful Day." The crowd cheered when a flock of white doves was released overhead.

"So this is our moment. This is our time. This is our chance to stand up for what's right," Bono said.

Geldof introduced Microsoft billionaire and philanthropist Gates, whom the crowd greeted with a rock star's roar.

"We can do this, and when we do, it will be the best thing that humanity has ever done," Gates said.

Madonna performed "Like a Prayer" hand-in-hand with Birham Woldu, an Ethiopian woman who as a malnourished toddler appeared in some of the most wrenching footage of the 1984-85 famine. Her life was saved, Geldof said, partly through donations from Live Aid viewers.

The crowd joined in as REM sang "Man on the Moon," then heard U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan declare: "This is really the United Nations. ... The whole world has come together in solidarity with the poor."

Geldof's claim that 3 billion people around the world were watching yesterday seemed overblown, as did talk in Philadelphia that a million people were on hand.

Live 8 was huge, nonetheless, with a mile-long crowd stretching from the front steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and more than 5 million page views on America Online's music site -- -- which broadcast the concerts in their entirety.

AOL said more than 150,000 people simultaneously streamed its video -- the most in Internet history.

The Live 8 show in Johannesburg, as well as one featuring African artists in southwestern England, were organized following criticism that African artists had been left out of an event aimed at their own continent.

"Africans are involved in helping Africa, which doesn't happen too often," Cameroonian singer Coco Mbassi said before the England show.

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