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A heartfelt unity, concert with a cause

Even if it wasn't quite Live Aid 2005, the Music for Relief concert Friday to raise money and awareness for victims of the tsunami in southern Asia inspired a similar coming together of the music community to help those in distress.

Beyond individually passionate performances at the Arrowhead Pond — notably those of hard rock band Linkin Park, rapper Jay-Z and modern rockers No Doubt — the transcendent message of the show was that unity works. The event, for which tickets cost $85 to $125, is expected to generate between $1 million and $1.5 million for UNICEF and Habitat for Humanity to help survivors rebuild their homes and their lives.

Late cancellations by Ozzy Osbourne and Blink-182 disappointed a few fans, but the vast majority recognized that, on this evening, the cause superseded the lineup. Osbourne issued a statement citing a "family emergency," and a spokeswoman added only that it was "not of a grave nature." Blink posted a statement on its website blaming "unexpected circumstances" for its cancellation.

The lineup impressively crossed the genre boundaries that govern most rock shows. There probably aren't a lot of followers of rap group Jurassic 5 who normally would turn out for teen-fave alt-rock band Story of the Year. In turn, those fans wouldn't normally be a heavy presence at a DJ set by the Crystal Method, the L.A.-based duo that opened the evening.

But the enthusiastic reception given each act proved again that people's tastes aren't nearly as limited as today's radio playlists would suggest.

No Doubt generated a hometown heroes' welcome, playing a characteristically energetic hourlong hits-heavy set in the Anaheim-bred quartet's backyard, the band's first performance in seven months since singer Gwen Stefani launched her solo career.

But the greatest anticipation was for what was only the second live collaboration between Linkin Park and Jay-Z. Linkin Park set up the Music for Relief organization only three days after the tsunami hit. Jay-Z emerged from his self-imposed retirement for this performance.

Linkin Park, which handled the first half of its set by itself, has its own rapper and DJ and has crafted perhaps the most seamless hybrid of rap and rock since the two became bedfellows in the early '90s. So it wasn't a huge stretch for the band to hook up with Jay-Z last year for MTV's "Ultimate Mash-ups."

But the combination of Linkin Park's hard-rock artillery and Jay-Z's deft rapping truly does create a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

For Jay-Z, who sometimes has had trouble connecting live, Linkin Park supplies a wider range of rhythms and sonic textures that broadens the reach of his raps. And that rapping, with unpredictable accents and skillfully offbeat meters, adds an extra dimension to Linkin Park's musical assault.

Osbourne's absence left the concluding set by the ad hoc metal band Camp Freddy without a stellar leader. Several others stepped in to help fill the void, including former Bush singer (and Stefani's husband) Gavin Rossdale, looking a bit out of place emulating a hard-rocker while singing Bad Company's "Feel Like Making Love." Filter singer Richard Patrick did a credible Robert Plant take on Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," and Rob Zombie hopscotched in to lend a few minutes of his steel-ball-in-a-pachinko-machine athleticism to the proceedings.

Between each performance, video footage of the tsunami's devastation was shown over the three video screens above the open arena floor, and various participants gave straight-from-the-heart pitches, live and on tape, urging concertgoers not to let the issue slip from their minds now that it is no longer front-page news on a daily basis.

Backstage while Story of the Year performed, No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal said he was moved to act after "watching those images on TV, like everyone else. I was watching it with my girlfriend and she said, 'You should do something.' That same day, I got calls from Tom [Dumont, No Doubt's guitarist] and Adrian [Young, drummer] saying, 'We should do something.' "

Kanal said he quickly discovered that Linkin Park was looking to do the same. So they joined forces. In establishing the Music for Relief organization so quickly, Kanal said, "Linkin Park already had set up the infrastructure — they had done all the groundwork."

Participants said that all the musicians had donated their time, and that all of the show's profits would go to relief efforts. The only costs would be for some of the technical crew, and No Doubt manager Jim Guerinot said many who could afford it worked at reduced or no salaries. Arena staffing expenses, Guerinot said, were covered by Broadcom co-founder Henry Samueli, one of the owners of the Arrowhead Pond.

"It's important for people to realize that it doesn't matter whether they can give $1 million or $100; it all helps," said Linkin Park guitarist Brad Delson backstage a few minutes before the band took the stage. "It's good to be part of a unified effort within the music community. So many of us have toured over there that we all have fans we care about there. That makes it a personal commitment, not just something we see on TV."

Los-Angeles Times - February 21, 2005



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