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First Live Earth Reviews: Australia and Japan

July 7th, 2007 · 1 Comment

Tokyo kicks off with holographic magic, Aussies just kick ass

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By Jeffrey Jolson

HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Today) 7/7/07 — In the end it was the music that made the earth move. Live Earth actually started Friday night about 6 p.m., that being the 7/7/07 in Asia. And just how were the performances? Who stood out and who fell flat? Like a worldwide American Idol, the audiences got their vote. See Hollywood Today’s other articles for the message, these reviews are about the music.

For historical note, the first act to hit a stage for Live Earth’s nine worldwide concerts was Melbourne blues roots band Blue King Brown in Australia. Yet more compelling was the follow-up, Toni Colette and the Finish. She said “It’s nice to see you all here going green.” Her angst-filled Aussie rock, mixed with a story-telling style of songwriting has made her a hit Down Under and gained her a growing group of fans worldwide.

She hit just the right note with heartfelt lyrics like “The rain has come down and made everything right. What’s left is the shadow.” Colette then dedicated a tune to “our blessed world leaders.” Of course, the tune was “Cowboy Games,” with the line ending “telling their cowboy lies” getting the biggest ovation.

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Better known for her anti-war songs, “Look Up” was about as close as she got to an environmental anthem. Rivers flooding Watch out fools are fightings the air is thinning, angels calling, Look up the sky is falling, which builds from anthem to rocker. She sang T-Rex’d “You Won’t fool the Children of the Revolution,” not her own song, of course, but somehow appropriate to kick things off. Overall the band came across well, a nice mix of her Evanesque vocals, electric violin and and basically a grunge band backing them up.

Dance-oriented band Sneaky Sound System came on next, familiar to disco habitués, and crowd pleasers who needed a burst of energy from a long day of traffic jams, security checks and whatever it took to get them the feel a part of history and helping.

Backdrop at the Sydney show was a wall of tires, symbolic in a way but what do they do with them after the show? We picture the burning tire graveyard on the Simpsons TV show, but surely they recycle them into those thong things the Aussie like.

By then Genki Rockets was on in Tokyo with a very high-tech Spaceship Earth show, designed to show what a little Japanese technology can do to a concert hall. It was like the opening of the Olympics, make sure you catch it on the net if they re-run it. It had lasers, giant globes, backlit neon outlines that followed the performer’s movements and one more amazing thing.

A holographic Al Gore. We looked closely, played it over as he made his speech, and except for the fact that he said he was there holographically, you could not tell, even as the camera panned around him. And the fact he mentioned all the cities the show was beaming to (with flashy graphics appearing over the crowd), except Washington DC, which was only finalized yesterday. So it had to be pre-taped, but this was real holodeck stuff, for you Star Trek fans.

Gore was Followed by Rize, a Japanese hard rock band, and they’ve studied the Clash sound well and know how to shake some walls. Some songs in English, they are obviously looking to be an import. They are a stadium-level act in Japan and Metallica fans should hunt down a song or two on the net. They will like these guys. Lead singer has R.I.P. Earth tattooed on his chest, or R.I.P. something.

Back to Australia for the Ghostwriters, with Midnight Oil drummer Rob Hirst, rock with a horn section. Every song seemed to have a meaning like “Second Skin,” something we may all need if the ozone layer burns through. Even their new album title rang true “Political Animal.”

Some may remember their hit “When the Generals Talk,” though the audience didn’t seem to.

Jetting back to Tokyo, we found the disappointing Ayaka. She may be the closest thing Japan has to a country singer, a Kelly Clarkson wannabe that would have only been put on “American Idol’s” first round so she could be laughed off for her off key singing and overblown theatrics. The Japanese crowd clapped politely, which is the New York equivalent to throwing bottles at her.

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Thank goodness for the “deeper waters” of Paul Kelly back in Australia. The singer-songwriter is an icon in Australia, and his folksy rock strikes deep into the hearts of his country. With songs that go back to the early 80s, there were people moved by his music who hadn’t even heard his old classics. He brought up Tim Conway, John Butler and Missy to sing the 20-year-old enviro-political anthem “From Little Things Big Things Grow” and everyone in the stadium was swaying and singing.

One of the beautiful things about all the Live Earth shows is you have bands playing hits from before half the audience was even born. And the kids dug it. Music knows no age. Except maybe rap.

Eskimo Joe was predictably a hit, being a multi-platinum Top 40 staple in Australia. They played their hits like “Planet Earth” and “From the Sea.” It seemed like standard pop rock, perfect execution, like a band produced by a super-producer. There was one moment that stood out. The singer said “Turn to the person next to you, put your arms around them and sway,” and everyone in Aussie Stadium actually did it. If a band asked the crowd to do that at Giants Stadium in New Jersey in a few hours, you would have 60,000 pockets picked.

Back to Tokyo for AI, not to be confused with Artificial Intelligence, which this soul singer could use in her song selection. But she does have a set of pipes that won’t quit. The whole set was surreal. Here’s this Japanese girl in a bizarre checkered jumpsuit belting out soul tunes in Japanese, even though she looks like she wouldn’t know a plantation from an Acura. She’s even got three little AI-ettes singing backup. But she was brought up partly in Los Angeles, so she does know what a ‘hood is and the pain that kind of world can bring. She had something genuine in her, and it showed. Even when she was singing in Japanese.

What was just as surreal was Xzibit, hardcore US rappers who came on next and the audience didn’t know what to think. But then the beats took over and they started to dance. They appeared to have written a rap about the ozone layer for the occasion, but it was hard to tell. They did rap it the hard way. No telling how many Japanese teens will be in therapy after listening to this trio.

Singer-songwriter Missy Higgins was another nice surprise, she sang about empowerment, noting before the hit “Steer” “You have the steering wheel right there in your hands. And that goes for the environment too.” While we know she’s had No 1 albums in Australia, and she showed why with a sassy and bold set of what should have been hits in America as well as Down Under.

At presstime, the Chinese have taken the green flag for a concert of mostly Chinese acts in Shanghai, save for Sarah Brightman, who might be feeling a bit out of place with Chinese rock acts. But just the fact that China would cooperate in the Live Earth operation is saying a lot.

The Crowded House reunion is due in moments, so check back for more reviews and news. We’ll be up as long as you are.

Live Earth has given us the chance to hear some very special music that we might not have otherwise had the time to. And when you don’t have time to listen to new music, it means you’re officially old. So if nothing else, Live Earth helps make us young again. And that’s exactly what we want it to do to Mother Earth.

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