HELLO CLEVELAND! USE COMPACT FLUORESCENTS! Every time I thought of the Live Earth concerts this weekend – and that wasn`t often, admittedly – I couldn`t help but wonder about poor Jim Kerr. The Simple Minds lead singer must have tuned in for at least a few minutes while bands like Bloc Party, Foo Fighters, Keane, Genesis, Kasabian and Red Hot Chili Peppers did their bit to save the planet, and wondered to himself, “Hey – time was they never would have done one of these things without me. What happened?” A sobering thought. I hope Jim recovered his humour in time to sort the recycling.
Ratings for Saturday’s broadcast on the concert weren’t impressive, alas – NBC finished in fourth place with the special event, averaging a 0.9 share among adults 18-49, for a total of just 2.7 million viewers. In Britain, viewership was less than a third the numbers that tuned in for the Lady Diana memorial concerts two weeks ago. In the U.S. the numbers were lower than what NBC had pulled in by running repeats of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The London shows were criticized for excessive cussing by acts onstage, while British tabloids called headliner Madonna a “climate change catastrophe” for her own less-than-discreet carbon footprint, citing “carbon emissions from nine houses, a fleet of cars, a private jet and the Confessions tour.”
The shows had been noted for their lack of stalwart activist bands like Coldplay and U2 in the lineup, and had been tarnished by criticism from bands such as the Arctic Monkeys, whose drummer famously called the even patronising while explaining why they turned it down, adding that it would be “hypocritical ... especially when we're using enough power for 10 houses just for lighting.” Who singer Roger Daltrey said that “the last thing the planet needs is a rock concert,” while Live Aid founder Bob Geldof was dismissive of the goal of raising consciousness of the issue, saying “We are all fucking conscious of global warming.”
In yesterday’s Toronto Star, Vinay Menon tried to sum up the fatigued reaction to the show that doomed it from the start, writing that “these concerts have become wretched clichés. We are getting inured to the world's most vexing problem by distracting celebrity activism.”
Even those of us who are skeptical of the whole issue of climate change could have warned Al Gore and the event’s producers that a rock concert wasn’t exactly the most appropriate venue to showcase the issue, and there was no shortage of voices in the months leading up to the weekend’s shows. Citing the purchase of “carbon offsets” to minimize the energy consumption of the event only seems like naiveté, if you feel charitable, and Menon wondered if it wasn’t “a bit like buying somebody a hat after you've pulled out his hair?” No – it’s like telling someone you’ve bought them a hat after you’ve pulled out their hair – if you even believe in the hat, or hair, to begin with.