Patti LaBelle leads all-star Earth’s Call concert for climate action in Aspen
Patti LaBelle and an all-star lineup of musicians filled the stage of the Benedict Music Tent on Saturday night, as the new climate action nonprofit Earth’s Call launched itself with an Aspen concert and livestream event.
LaBelle, backed by a full orchestra conducted by Cheche Alara, performed John Lennon’s “Imagine” early on in the three-hour event. She returned to close the night with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Lady Marmalade,” after which the vivacious 74-year-old music tossed a mic stand across the stage, kicked her sparkling high heels into the crowd and led all of the evening’s performers in a group rendition of “Takin’ It to the Streets.”
The cast included Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart, who performed a 10-minute ambient composition, the Alan Parsons Band, which performed its “Sirius” among others in two appearances, R&B singer Anthony Hamilton, the 11-time Latin Grammy winner Natalia Lafourcade, the South African choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo and pop star Colbie Caillat.
Earth’s Call founder Michael Fitzpatrick — a cellist, Aspen Music Festival and School alumnus and former Aspen Institute fellow — performed his composition “Invocation of the Earth” as the centerpiece of the event.
Earth’s Call is aiming to find and fund innovative solutions to the climate crisis, beginning with a commitment of $50 million for initiatives. The concert complemented a three-day Aspen convening of leaders from climate action groups, corporations and foundations, along with scientists, indigenous peoples and youth climate activists.
“As we begin the effort to work together with other wonderful organizations to heal the planet, we are all taking part in this experience tonight because planet Earth is in trouble,” Earth’s Call co-founder John “Spike” Buckley told the crowd.
The group Climate Underground used the event to launch its new “adopt a meter” initiative, allowing people to pay $5 to restore a meter of soil on Earth to draw down carbon from the atmosphere.
Among Earth’s Call’s supporters is billionaire activist Tom Steyer, who introduced the female vocal group Compton Kidz Club and briefly highlighted some of his efforts on climate change (“We’re trying to impeach the biggest climate denier in the history of the planet!” he said, to a roar of applause, of his controversial campaign to oust President Donald Trump).
The evening also was interspersed with video messages from religious leaders around the world. Pope Francis sent a written blessing, read aloud by Fitzpatrick.
The concert’s pristine, professional production included video projections that played out on the tent ceiling and draped fabrics. An audio-visual team of dozens worked to broadcast the event online at earthscall.org.
But the splashy event was a bit of a mystery until it actually happened. It was announced just weeks ago, with a slate of huge names, no tickets and a block of free seats for locals, but no website for the organization and an event slated for the black hole of Aspen’s spring offseason. It’s too-good-to-be-true sheen led some observers to wonder whether this would be climate activism’s version of the misbegotten Fyre Festival.
But it was for real and, following a snowy mid-May day in Aspen’s quiet mud season, the tent filled with some 2,000 people and some of the biggest names in pop music for a rally to save the planet.
Fitzpatrick said last week that he expects Earth’s Call to continue producing an annual concert and livestream event, but that it will move to different cities annually.
Members of the Ute Tribe opened the evening with an invocation, followed by Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron, who highlighted the city’s 100 percent renewable energy status and his global work on climate as mayor.
“Never discount how important even a small place can be in informing the international dialogue,” he urged the crowd. “We do it here.”
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The literary nonprofit Aspen Words is restarting its writers-in-residence program that had been on pause during the pandemic. Residents include “Call Me By Your Name” author André Aciman. Public events begin June 15.