On Thursday (June 10), many of the world’s biggest entertainers helped kick off what is arguably the world’s biggest sporting event, the 2010 FIFA World Cup, with a massive concert at Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa. As the soccer/football competition pits nations against each other in the game, the concert highlighted Africa’s singular talent while setting the stage for some international collaborations.
A legion of dancers and drummers heralded South African trumpet legend Hugh Masekela, who opened the event with singer Lira. Following an address by FIFA president Sepp Blatter and South African president Jacob Zuma, the Black Eyed Peas rocked the stage. The Peas got the party started with their feel-good hit “Where Is the Love?” Fergie and Will.I.Am (who was decked out in a snappy sequined jacket with rope detail reminiscent of Michael Jackson) then led the thousands of concertgoers through “Pump It.”
Dancers in graphic print black-and-white bodysuits bounded onstage for the Peas speaker-rattling banger “Boom Boom Pow.” Will.I.Am donned a metal mask and Fergie rocked some wild long nails as the group charged though their international smash. Then the crew was flanked by dozens of dancers sporting colorful T-shirts and belts busting high-energy moves for “I Gotta Feeling,” bringing an African vibe to the Peas set.
Later in the show, John Legend joined Benin’s Angelique Kidjo for their cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up,” with Kidjo adding African lyrics to the duo’s revamp. Then Legend, looking prep-school suave in a pale blue jacket and slacks, took to the piano for his version of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ call-to-action song, “Wake Up Everybody,” backed by the Soweto Gospel Choir. Legend then implored to the crowd, “Are you ready to go?” before finishing up with his up-tempo hit “Green Light.”
A spry Archbishop Desmond Tutu drew cheers from the crowd for his animated introduction of a video featuring activist and South African icon Nelson Mandela. The thousands of fans got into it when he shouted, “We are all African!”
Alicia Keys didn’t let her recently announced pregnancy stop her from rocking the stage in sky-high heels, as the singer came out to an amped-up version of “You Don’t Know My Name.” She then transitioned into “Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart” before retreating to her grand piano for an upbeat, syncopated rendition of “Fallin’.” The singer put her hometown on the world stage with her spare version of the mammoth New York City anthem “Empire State of Mind.” However, Keys switched it up for the occasion at the end of the song, belting, “When you’re in Africa …,” and swapping out “New York” for “World Cup.” Then, backed by South African folk-punk group Blk Jks, Keys launched into a heartfelt cover of “Too Late for Mama” by the late South African pop star Brenda Fassie.
Somali hip-hop artist K’Naan energized the crowd with his World Cup anthem “Wavin’ Flag” as the mass of concertgoers thrust their respective national flags in the air. Will.I.Am returned to the stage to join K’Naan, apparently siding with a legendary soccer team in lieu of being patriotic, and waved a Brazilian flag in the air.
Kicking off her set with “She Wolf,” Shakira brought her singular undulating skills to the stage, gyrating in a cut-out bodysuit and shaking her hips in a shredded skirt. She then went into her waist-swiveling smash “Hips Don’t Lie” flanked by several belly dancers and shouted out her native Colombia after an extended dance break. The star finished up with her buoyant official World Cup track “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” as confetti sprayed into the air.
Several international artists such as Amadou & Mariam, Vusi Mahlasela, and Vieux Farka Toure also performed.
The concert closed with an image of worldwide musical solidarity as Will.I.Am, Fergie, K’Naan, Shakira and others joined African artists like Angelique Kidjo and Tinariwen onstage to sing Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday People.” Fireworks streaked the sky as the stars signed off from Joburg.