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Rockers urge fans to fight global warming at Live Earth concerts

SYDNEY, Australia - Concerts in Sydney and Tokyo on Saturday kicked off 24 hours of music by more than 150 artists in a round-the-globe series of shows designed to raise awareness about climate change.

Former Vice President Al Gore, whose campaign to force global warming into international politics inspired the concerts, made a live video appearance from Washington to open the first Live Earth show, on the other side of the world in Sydney.

He took the technology a step further a few hours later, appearing on stage in Tokyo as a hologram to deliver his message.

'Global warming is the greatest challenge facing our planet, and the gravest we've ever faced,' he said. 'But it's one problem we can solve if we come together as one and take action and drive our neighbors, businesses and governments to act as well. That's what Live Earth is all about.'

For the most part, the diverse range of performers wholeheartedly backed the call, and the organizers promised the huge shows were eco-friendly by using recycled goods and buying carbon credits to offset the inevitable high power bills.

Madonna, Metallica, the Police and Kanye West were among the top-billed acts listed for the biggest concerts, in London and New Jersey, with more modest lineups of mostly local and regional acts at the other venues. Concerts also were being held in Shanghai, China; Johannesburg, South Africa; Hamburg, Germany; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Washington.

In Sydney, an estimated 50,000 people grooved through a set by former professional surfer Jack Johnson, banged their heads to afro-haired 1970s retro rockers Wolfmother, and awaited the first home performance in more than 10 years by reformed 1980s hitsters Crowded House.

Critics say Live Earth lacks achievable goals and that bringing in jet-setting rock stars in fuel-guzzling airliners to plug in amplifier stacks and cranking up the sound may send mixed messages about energy conservation.

Organizers say they're using biodiesel for power and recycled products where possible. Proceeds from ticket sales will go toward distributing power-efficient light bulbs and other measures to offset the shows' greenhouse gas emissions, they say.

Organizers were predicting live broadcasts on cable television and the Internet could reach up to 2 billion people, including public service announcements giving tips about how to conserve energy.