Crooner Francesco De Gregori launched Italy’s Live 8 concert on Saturday, and British band Duran Duran belted out “Save a Prayer” — a track they also sang at the Live Aid show for African relief 20 years ago.
Under a blazing sun, thousands gathered in Rome’s ancient Circus Maximus to watch Faith Hill and a string of Italian stars in one of 10 concerts across the globe to help raise awareness about African poverty.
“We as a species of humanity have to take responsibility for our brothers and sisters in Africa,” Duran Duran singer Simon Le Bon told the crowd. “Today is the beginning we’re going to keep watching and we’re going to keep doing it.”
Giant screens showed the opening performance of the Live 8 concert in London’s Hyde Park — “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by Paul McCartney and U2.
With more than 30 acts, the Rome lineup boasted some of the most popular names in Italian music, including Zucchero, Luciano Ligabue, Jovanotti and Elisa — all lending their voices to the campaign for a political solution to African poverty ahead of the Group of Eight summit in Scotland next week.
“The emergency in Africa can no longer be put off,” Jovanotti told reporters Friday. “We might not change the world, but we can break down the door,” to change it.
The stars performed in a spectacular setting: the ancient chariot track of the Circus Maximus in the heart of the Italian capital. The arena, which has an estimated capacity of 1 million, is overlooked by the ruins of the Roman emperors’ palaces on the Palatine Hill.
“For Italy, it will be the greatest concert in the history of Italian music,” said Rome mayor Walter Veltroni.
The artists, playing for free, answered Live Aid organizer Bob Geldof’s call to urge world leaders to double aid, cancel debt and rework unfair trade laws to lift African nations out of poverty.
However, Italian singer Pino Daniele pulled out at the last minute, reportedly to protest the excessive power of the media in the music industry and a lack of contractual protection.
Stefano D’Archangelo, a 29-year-old DJ from Rome, said he came “because this is our Woodstock, it’s the biggest concert I’ve ever seen.”
“The music was what drew me here but I also hope there will be transparency so the cause will not only be advertised but also realized,” he said, referring to the concern that money raised or pledged by wealthy nations may not reach the hands of the world’s poorest in Africa.
Some slept in the arena overnight and a few lay on beach towels to sunbathe before the music began.
To battle the punishing temperatures that have afflicted the country this week, Italy’s civil defense department said it was handing out 1 million free bottles of mineral water, while water canons sprayed the crowds in the open-air arena.