Bono, Wyclef, And Others Receive Mixed Reaction At NetAid

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10.11.99 - Launch Online

NetAid, staged in Geneva, London, and New Jersey on Saturday (Oct. 9), received a mixed reception from fans.

The purpose of the concerts was to generate traffic for the website and promote awareness of Third World poverty. The goal was to steer more than 1 billion hits to the website through coverage on VH1, MTV, and radio.

While the number of hits on the NetAid website weren't released at press time, the attendance and response to the shows suggested that organizers weren't able to reach as many people as they had hoped.

While Geneva was a private, invite-only show, the concert in London at Wembley Arena actually went off quite well. By the time Bush hit the stage, the venue was packed to capacity, with more than 60,000 people in attendance. The same couldn't be said about the show at Giants Stadium, which was more than half empty.

The New Jersey show left some fans wondering if the concert should have been dubbed SleepAid rather than NetAid. The concert featured Zucchero, Wyclef Jean, Bono, Jewel, Counting Crows, Sheryl Crow, Mary J. Blige, Puff Daddy, Sting, Cheb Mami, Jimmy Page, Busta Rhymes, and the Black Crowes.

Attendance for the show was anemic, but organizers put a spin on the show, saying that they wanted an "intimate" setting of close to 35,000 for the show. Giants Stadium holds a capacity for close to 75,000, but the entire top decks of the stadium were draped with NetAid banners. That may have been an effort to save some face after the less-than-impressive tickets sales. Outside the stadium, scalpers took a bath as they sold $50 tickets for $10.

Crow, who played midway through the show and participated in the worldwide sing-along, "Net Aid Unity," said she wasn't concerned about the attendance. "I thought that they were great," she said. "I have to admit that when I walked out at 5:15 today and did the sing-along moment that I was concerned that perhaps it wasn't advertised enough or, like my Central Park gig, there was a presence of control there, but I think people were getting off work. It's more like people just show up when it gets dark to see people play rock 'n' roll, and they were really into it. I really loved it. For an event like this it's as much about the TV presence as anything, because you're trying to draw awareness."

A main figure in the NetAid concerts was Jubilee 2000 supporter Bono, and Jubilee 2000 organizer Jamie Drummond. Drummond told LAUNCH that Jubilee 2000 is the charity and NetAid is just a platform to get the word out.

Bono, however, was quick to keep the two camps separate. "They're different though. It's really important to differentiate the two," he said. "I got involved with the Jubilee 2000 campaign about 16 months ago. I heard there was this idea that might actually change the world. I'll pay attention if I think I can be involved in some process of real change rather than some hippie idealistic idea, 'Let's hold hands and poverty will go away' kind of a deal."

In spite of the poor attendance, the New Jersey show had a few highlights, but those were few and far between, as there was a lot of downtime between set changes. During the show, fans were bombarded with announcements that seemed to take the juice out of the crowd.

The concert opened with an all-star jam by all the performers on the Wyclef Jean/Bono collaboration "New Day," which is the NetAid anthem. Unfortunately only about 4,000-5,000 were on hand to enjoy it.

After a spirited performance by Zucchero, Jewel took the stage. Her set included "Hands" and "Jupiter." Following her performance, a taped segment regarding Jewel's new organization aired. Before her set, Jewel spoke about why she came to NetAid. "My mom and I founded an organization for Higher Ground For Humanity. And a launching of one of the suborganizations of that is called the Clearwater Project. What we're doing is we're installing the technology in Third World countries to clean up the water, and ultimately they'll be able to bottle it and sell it and have their own economic system. And that's something that we're launching here, and have been glad to have the opportunity to do it here at NetAid."

One bit of irony to note is that her announcement said that people should not drink bottled water, because it only makes us less likely to clean up our water supply. Yet most of the artists were drinking bottled water and the stadium vendors were selling it to the fans at Giants Stadium.

Counting Crows were introduced by actress Meryl Streep. The band, led by singer Adam Duritz, who sported an old-style hat and straightened dreadlocks, played a set of mostly new material.

Sheryl Crow's set began with a misstep. Her microphone was dead for the beginning of her opening song, "If It Makes You Happy," but the technical glitch was fixed about halfway through the song. Her set also included a rousing rendition of "Every Day Is A Winding Road." She easily had the most interesting outfit of the night--a top made of dark blue yarn knit and leather pants.

The staging at the New Jersey show looked more like a business convention with all the sponsors on it, from Cisco Systems to the UNDP to KPMG, who worked on the website. Organizers presented a check from the employees of the company to NetAid for $1 million.

After a set by Mary J. Blige, Puff Daddy took the stage to perform what many felt was the highlight of the night. After rising through the floor of the stage, he went on to play a set punctuated with pyrotechnics.

There were musical pyrotechnics, as well. Former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash came on to play "All About The Benjamins," with Lil' Kim and Lil' Cease. Puffy's set also featured a choir. Jimmy Page, looking healthy and wearing all black, played guitar on the "Kashmir"-based song from the Godzilla soundtrack, "Come With Me."

Sting's set included "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free" and "Brand New Day," among others, and included an appearance by Cheb Mami.

As speculated, the Black Crowes were joined by Page on a number of Led Zeppelin songs. The Crowes and Page opened up with an instrumental version of "Dazed And Confused" then went into "In My Time Of Dying." Particularly impressive was their version of the Zep classic "Whole Lotta Love."

By the time Wyclef took the stage, some time after 11 p.m. (ET), the crowd had thinned out again. Halfway through the event, Wyclef told LAUNCH why there were a lot of empty seats. "The answer [will be] real simple by the time Sting gets on, by the time 8 p.m. comes." He added, "One thing about New Jersey--'cause you know, I'm from Brooklyn, but I was raised in New Jersey--We don't show up until 8 p.m, that's the first thing. The second thing is this thing is on the Net at the same time, so that's my answer. So if I'm home on a Saturday night and I've got my computer in the house, all I'm gonna do is invite over a cutie, get some popcorn, get some Pepsi, and pop it on the Net. Why do I want to be around 34,000 people when I can get a vibe of intimacy. If you check the Net you'll see that there is a lot of people hitting the concert, and everyone is at home watching it live. So that's really the answer for it."

Wyclef's set featured a reprise of "New Day" with Bono. -- Darren Davis, New York

Copyright 1997-1999 LAUNCH Media, Inc.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on October 11, 1999 6:33 AM.

Net Aid Concert, New York City (October 9, 1999) was the previous entry in this blog.

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