Spice Girls Power Up For Pavarotti's Liberia Charity Show

Pop sensations and Jon Bon Jovi sign on for annual benefit for children of war-torn country.

NEW YORK -- They've tackled the pop music world. They've mastered the video format and even made a critically acclaimed feature film. Now the Spice Girls, backed by opera great Luciano Pavarotti, plan to put their unique brand of "Girl Power" to work in helping to save the children of war-torn Liberia.

Pavarotti, funk songwriter Stevie Wonder and film director Spike Lee held a joint New York press conference Thursday to announce that the Spice Girls would be among the star-studded lineup slated to perform at Pavarotti's annual charity concert for Liberia. Among the other major artists set to join Pavarotti are pop diva Celine Dion, New Jersey rocker Jon Bon Jovi and singer Vanessa Williams.

"Liberia needs our help more than ever," Pavarotti told a packed room of nearly 100 reporters, camera crews and photographers. "I am absolutely delighted that this incredible group of musicians has agreed to join me for my War Child charity concert and I am deeply indebted to the number of people already supporting this vital cause."

The benefit concert, which will raise money for children in war-torn

Liberia through the international aid agency War Child, will be held June 9 in Pavarotti's hometown of Modena, Italy. Other performers include Trisha Yearwood, Natalie Cole and The Coors, as well as Pino Daniele, Florent Pagny, Eros Ramazzotti and Zuchero.

Gathered in a large conference room at the Metropolitan Pavilion, Pavarotti, Wonder and Lee answered questions about the concert. Joining the threesome and also speaking was the concert's producer and legendary music industry producer Phil Ramone; Myrtle Gibson, senator of the Liberian Government; Olara Otunno, representative from the United Nations; John Carmichael, director of operations for War Child; and Christopher Roberts, president of Polygram classics and jazz. Polygram, in conjunction with London Records, will release recordings of the concert in the fall.

This is the third charity concert event for War Child that Pavarotti has

sponsored. Past concerts in 1995 and 1996 raised more than $7 million and

featured big-name artists such as U2, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Sheryl Crow,

Sting and Brian Eno.

The June concert will raise funds to build the Pavarotti & Friend's Liberian Children's Village, a safe center to provide educational, medical, agricultural and recreational services for the children of the African nation, which has been ravaged by civil war since 1989. Lee announced that he would be directing the film footage of the concert, which will be shown at a later date on the BBC

and PBS. Both VHS and DVD copies of the concert film will be available

for sale in the fall.

"We wanted a different show, a more cinema cut, something shocking,"

the heavyset tenor said. "I don't know what [Lee will] do. It's a dream, I never

thought we would have Spike with us, but he's here."

For his part, Lee said he was not expecting a phone call from the

renowned tenor, and even when it came, the filmmaker added that he was dubious. "We started getting these crank calls -- somebody calling from Italy saying they were Pavarotti," said Lee, prompting laughter from the room. "We

didn't believe it. Luckily Pavarotti was persistent. Once I got on the

phone, he told me what the deal was, and then I said I was in."

Saying he could bring "a little flavor" to the concert film, Lee noted that the project is different in scope from any of his feature films, which include the critically acclaimed "Do the Right Thing" as well as his documentaries. "It's a challenge to me, too," he added. "Because I've never directed anything live."

Wonder also said he was thankful that he had been asked to work on

the project and announced that he had already written a duet for

himself and Pavarotti, but wouldn't reveal any specifics of the song.

"It's good," was the singer's only comment, as his trademark wide grin spread

across his face.

Ramone, who has worked in the past with such noted musicians as Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Natalie Cole and Sinead O'Connor, said that finding a

roster of performers for the charity concert was easy. "This is the most voluntary group of artists I've ever seen in my life," he said. "The wish list was accomplished rather quickly. Musically, this is so challenging to them, too, because they get to sing with Pavarotti."