Volume 92, Issue 7

Tuesday, September 15, 1998

here we go


Rockers strum and sing for freedom

By Jamie Lynn
Gazette Staff

Without question, the musical event of the summer took place in Washington, D.C. on June 13 and 14. Featuring the summer's most diverse and vibrant line-up of musicians, the Tibetan Freedom Concert '98 was a politically charged "dream concert" that almost didn't happen because of a violent act of nature.

The two-day event, which took place at RFK Stadium and was completely organized by the Beastie Boys, attracted over 120,000 fans. The concert was organized to bring awareness to the brutal oppression currently being inflicted on the Tibetan people by the Chinese government. The show was also timed to coordinate with President Clinton's trip to China, which was to take place later in June. In addition, the fact that this year's show was held in the United States' capital was not merely a coincidence. All concert-goers were encouraged to attend a Tibetan Freedom rally on the Capitol Hill lawn the following Monday.

Surprisingly, the message was not lost in all the excitement. A village of booths outside the stadium were set up to provide information and reading material on the issue, while inside the stadium various speakers spoke to the crowd in between performances. It appeared as though the crowd, which was considerably more subdued and thoughtful than your average stadium rock crowd, actually absorbed some of the messages provided. Then again, this might have had something to do with the fact that beer wasn't being sold on the premises.

Nonetheless, it was the extraordinary music which brought the people to the show and great music is what they got. The first day featured some early sets by Live, Dave Matthew's Band and Money Mark, all of which never really caught fire. Up next was Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters' first live performance in over a decade. Unfortunately, the band's blistering set was cut short when things really did catch fire.

During a downpour, lightning hit a fan inside the stadium (eerily echoing a song by Live sung just an hour earlier) and shut down the show for the day. The fan were taken away by ambulance and soon after, R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe and MCA of the Beasties had to tell 60,000 disappointed fans to "go home in peace" and come back tomorrow.

What a difference a day makes. Sunday's show was one of the most perfect days in music history, with beautiful sunny skies and earth shattering performances by most of the artists.

Sonic Youth, Luscious Jackson and Sean Lennon all served up strong sets, while Blues Traveller and the hideous Wallflowers managed to be the afternoon's only snoozers. Still, Pulp put together an amazing set, due mostly to Jarvis Cocker's wild stage antics Wyclef Jean's dished up an intense performance that worked the crowd better than any artist all afternoon. Radiohead offered their usual, special blend of passion and intensity, leaving everyone dazzled.

A Tribe Called Quest reminded everyone why they are one of hip hop's most respected performers, while the event's hosts, the Beastie Boys, proved that they're still the three most entertaining guys to watch perform on a stage.

R.E.M. played their first concert without drummer Bill Berry, but his absence certainly didn't hinder the performance. The band played an interesting mix of great and moody songs from their yet-to-be-released new album, along with a show-stopping rendition of "E-Bow the Letter" with help from guest vocalist Thom Yorke of Radiohead. While the set proved fairly challenging for such a large stadium crowd, old favourites like "Losing My Religion" and "Man on the Moon" kept the crowd happy.

Pearl Jam were the headliners of the show and they played a very solid set of new and old material, with the song "Given to Fly" as a clear highlight. Lead singer Eddie Vedder also got some laughs when he dedicated his song "(Can't Find A)Better Man" to Bill Clinton. Red Hot Chili Peppers were the surprise closers, but their performance of old songs all came up tiredly flat.

Nevertheless, the show proved it could perfectly bridge politics and music in an effective way. A killer line-up of artists, mixed with a very significant and worthy message, made the Tibet Freedom Concert '98 a success on all levels. Entertainment and education – even a bolt of lightning couldn't stop that combination!

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazette.entertainment@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998