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Playing for poverty in shadow of opulence

Shakira, The Cure among artist to perform Live 8 show at Versailles
/ Source: The Associated Press

An eclectic lineup including Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and The Cure united in the fight against African poverty at a Live 8 concert set amid one of France’s greatest symbols of opulence — the Chateau of Versailles.

An afternoon crowd of 60,000 swelled to 100,000 by evening, police said, cramming the tree-lined boulevard leading up to the 17th century palace that was once home to King Louis XIV. The masses fell silent during two soaring arias by Bocelli and then danced in time to tunes by Tina Arena and Latin superstar Shakira.

Organizers said the venue was chosen to represent the wealth of the world’s richest countries as the leaders of those nations are being urged to do more to help the poor.

Concertgoers got a surprise at the end of the eight-hour show when English musician Dido showed up to perform a sinuous duet of “Seven Seconds” with Senegalese star Youssou N’Dour. The pair had performed the number just hours earlier in London’s Hyde Park and at a concert featuring African performers in southwestern England.

British rock trio Muse kicked off the event. The concert outside Paris was one of 10 around the world organized by Bob Geldof to raise awareness of African poverty and pressure the world’s most powerful leaders to do something about it at the Group of Eight summit in Scotland next week.

Robert Smith, lead singer of The Cure, said he was convinced the massive turnout of the global concerts would send a message.

“By mobilizing millions of people, you’re effectively saying to a few very powerful people that there is a groundswell and it isn’t going to go away,” Smith told The Associated Press backstage. “There’s too many people involved. There’s too much anger for things to just remain as they are.”

“The gulf between rich and poor isn’t unbridgeable. There is enough to go around,” said Smith, whose band was scheduled to close the 25-act event.

Geldof, former frontman of the Boomtown Rats, has said that organizers were offered a number of venues for the Paris concert but the Chateau of Versailles seemed most appropriate.

“We need an iconic building to represent the wealth of our countries,” Geldof said during a promotional stop in Paris earlier this month. “There is a great, rich symbolism... In a global event like this, you must talk symbols.”

The chateau is one of Paris’ top tourist attractions, known for the fountains, calm pathways and geometric gardens that fill its massive 2,000-acre grounds.

The Senegalese star Youssou N’Dour also was performing in London and at a concert featuring African performers in southwestern England.