MLK, Pride (In The Name Of Love), New Year's Day, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Maggie's Farm, Help, Bad, Sun City. Encore(s): I Shall Be Released.
The lineup includes: Joan Baez, Neville Brothers, Bob Geldof, Dave Stewart, Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel, Bryan Adams, Sting.
San Diego Union-Tribune, June 9, 1986
Amnesty concert educational, too
by Divina Infusino, Arts Writer
"The question has always been: Will these benefit concerts actually change things and create more awareness about the issues at hand?" said Joan Baez as she walked into the Inglewood Forum Friday afternoon.
It was two hours before the beginning of the second of six "Conspiracy of Hope" concerts celebrating the 25th anniversary of the international human rights organization, Amnesty International. The six-hour show by U2, Sting, Bryan Adams, Peter Gabriel, Lou Reed, the Neville Brothers, and Baez would be a stunning event, studded with surprise performances by Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Bob Geldof and Dave Stewart and appearances by Hollywood celebrities. But beforehand, the politically-active folk singing veteran of 1969's Woodstock and 1985's Live-Aid paused to notice the teen-agers huddled at the Forum's backstage driveway entrance, holding signs that read "Free Thozamile Gqweta" and "End Repression."
"I don't see any evidence that the public is neccesarily burning out on these events. A lot depends on how much intelligence is behind it and how much understanding, involvement and commitment there is from the people involved," said Baez. "On all those counts, these Amnesty concerts are a quantum leap compared to Live-Aid and some of these things."
The scheduled acts committed almost two weeks of their time to a six-city concert caravan that began in San Francisco on June 4, played in Los Angeles before 18,000 fans on Friday, hit Denver yesterday and will continue to Atlanta and Chicago. The tour climaxes next Sunday at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey with a minimum 13-act event that will be broadcast on MTV and Westwood One radio network. But the bands' involvement in the Amnesty's causes -- the release of prisoners of conscience, fair and prompt trials and the end of torture and execution around the world -- also showed in the content and inspired quality of their performances. Consequently, the Amnesty International concert at the Forum was an emotionally-charged educational event as well as an exceptional musical experience.
The largely clean-cut high school and college-aged crowd was handed postcards petitioning for the release of political prisoners and asked to fill them out and place them in provided boxes. In the middle of the forum hung banners with Amnesty's mailing address. Throughout the six-hour event, videotaped messages -- some relayed by celebrities -- explained Amnesty's goals. A bevy of stars, including Jamie Lee Curtis, Shelley Duvall, Rosanna Arquette and Madonna and Sean Penn, introduced acts and some gave prepared comments about the ideals of freedom Amnesty promotes.
While these appeals provoked the mind, it was the performances -- aided by an excellent sound system that tamed the usually cavernous Forum -- that drove the Amnesty goals of human dignity and self-realization into the audience's hearts.
Beginning with the opening taped music of African chants and the video of The Special AKA "Free Nelson Mandela," the concert sustained an international and multi-racial flavor and an impassioned level of music. The multi-cultural sounds of the New Orleans-based group, the Neville Brothers, kicked off the show. They remained on stage as the pure-voiced Baez walked on singing "The Times They Are a-Changing" a capella and backed her as she made a somewhat awkward attempt at relating to the young audience with a hip-swinging version of Tears For Fears "Shout." Afterwards, however, Aaron Neville, one of the greatest living soul singers, joined her for a spine-chilling version of "Amazing Grace." The usually droll Lou Reed, a longtime member of Amnesty International, followed with a zealous 30-minute set of his new material and some of his classics, including his ode to music's inspirational power, "Rock 'n' Roll." Introduced by his girlfriend, Daryl Hannah, Jackson Browne provided an unexpected highlight in the show when he concluded his three-song set with Little Steven's explicit musical plea for freedom, "I Am a Patriot."
Browne set the tone for Dylan and Petty. If Dylan and Petty's performances of "Band of The Hand," the old R&B tune "Shake A Hand," and Dylan's "License To Kill," were a preview of things to come tonight at the San Diego opening of their U.S. tour, those attending the Sports Arena show can expect Dylan to be in a jovial mood and at his biting musical best.
After a 15-minute intermission, the mood shifted dramatically with Peter Gabriel. With his expressionless face, Oriental-like dance movements and ethereal, haunting sound, Gabriel provoked one of the biggest responses of the evening when he ended his set with his 1980 song "Biko," a pointed anti-Apartheid indictment about the death of a South African martyr, Steven Biko. The musical tone changed again, but the emotional level remained high when Dave Stewart and Bob Geldof, dubbed the Brothers of Doom, paired for edgy, acoustic versions of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song," and "Get Up Stand Up."
The momentum let up, however, with Bryan Adams. Although the likable musician performed well, Adams' set was not of the same emotional or musical caliber as the other acts. However, Adams was a crowd favorite, and his string of hits, including the rousing "Summer of '69," won one of the biggest responses of the evening. Adams primed the audience for Sting and his jazz-fusion band, who put on a fiery, joyful set highlighted by a wild rap segment from saxophonist Branford Marsalis.
The centerpiece, however, was Sting's somber "Russians." The song's anti-nuclear, world peace message took on greater dimensions in the context of the Amnesty concert.
But no performance topped that of U2, an Irish band known for its humanistic, often politically motivated material and its riveting live show. U2 did not disappoint. The band played "Pride (in the Name of Love)" and several other hits with an uncommon passion and unity, allowing its leader, Bono, to climb the speakers blindfolded, as if he was a political prisoner facing execution.
The concert ended with most of the performers -- ironically, Dylan and Petty were missing -- singing Dylan's "I Shall Be Released."
© 1986 The San Diego Tribune. All Rights Reserved.