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Last-minute preparations for Live 8 marathon

Organizers expect more than a million fans to attend all-star concerts
/ Source: The Associated Press

They're wishing away the rain in London, preparing to dance in the streets of Philadelphia and stringing up the lights at the Palace of Versailles.

From Canada to Japan, organizers made last-minute preparations Friday for Live 8, a starry series of free concerts urging the world's richest nations to strike a new deal for the poorest.

"You will never see it again. You will never see this happen again, it will be the greatest concert ever," organizer Bob Geldof said Thursday. "It's all the promise of rock 'n' roll — all of it."

Announcing the gigs just over a month ago, musician and anti-poverty campaigner Geldof said Live 8 would be a chance for "the boys and girls with guitars ... to turn the world on its axis."

There has been no shortage of guitar-wielding volunteers. Among the acts scheduled to perform for free in London's Hyde Park on Saturday are U2, REM, Coldplay and Pink Floyd, reunited for the first time in more than 20 years.

The hastily assembled Live 8 campaign has grown to 10 shows around the world — in London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Moscow, Johannesburg, Tokyo, Philadelphia and Toronto, with a related all-African concert at the Eden Project in southwest England.

More than a million people may attend, and organizers say 85 percent of the world's population will have access to a television, radio or Internet broadcast of the day's events.

The concerts come four days before leaders of some of the world's richest nations meet in Scotland for a G-8 summit, and 20 years after the twin Live Aid shows in London and Philadelphia that raised millions for victims of famine in Africa.

Live Aid was about raising money — some $80 million by day's end. Live 8, Geldof says, is about raising awareness.

He wants G-8 leaders meeting at Gleneagles, Scotland to double aid, cancel debt and rework unfair trade laws to lift African nations out of poverty.

"All of that promise will be made concrete in nine cities, four continents, one culture, 1,000 artists _ all because too many people are dying on one continent," Geldof told an audience of young people at an MTV question-and-answer session Thursday.

The alternative, he said, was "to watch the carnival of death every night on our television screens forever in full glorious color and stereophonic sound, and indulge in the pornography of poverty. Not my world. I don't want it."

Despite Geldof's passion, some doubt whether Saturday's events can match the magic of Live Aid, a sometimes shambolic, occasionally inspiring trans-Atlantic showcase that included many of the era's biggest stars — David Bowie; Queen, Duran Duran; Phil Collins — and youngsters like Madonna, described at the time as an "up-and-coming singer."

Madonna will be onstage again in London this Saturday, as will Live Aid veterans U2, Elton John, Sting, Paul McCartney and Annie Lennox, alongside the likes of Mariah Carey, Robbie Williams and teen soul diva Joss Stone.

In Philadelphia, performers include Destiny's Child, The Dave Matthews Band, Bon Jovi, Stevie Wonder, P. Diddy and Jay-Z.

Green Day and Brian Wilson will join German bands at the Berlin show near the Brandenburg Gate that once divided east and west.

Eclectic lineups are the order of the day: Neil Young and Motley Crue in Barrie, north of Toronto; Icelandic eccentric Bjork and boy band McFly in Tokyo; the Pet Shop Boys and Russian performers in Moscow; Goth-rockers The Cure and Senegalese superstar Youssou N'Dour in Paris.

In Britain, 2 million mobile phone text messages were sent applying for 150,000 tickets to the outdoor show in Hyde Park. Thousands of people lined up for hours when 55,000 more tickets to watch on giant screens in the park were released on Wednesday.

"I'm not political at all, but there shouldn't be poverty, there shouldn't be children going without food in the world and we want to be part of the event," said Ray Williams, 47, who lined up for tickets at a theater in Birmingham, England. "People power does work sometimes."