There was a moment at Live Earth when I knew for certain it was all going horribly wrong.
There were 70,000 people in Wembley Stadium. The organisers had hoped for a television audience of two billion, to highlight the imminent dangers of global warming. On stage, Tom Chaplin from Keane vainly tried to lead a singalong. Behind him, a big screen boasted "We Called - You Answered", while the numbers who had responded to Live Earth's text message pledge were rolled out. The first line was "3,389 UK responses".
Frankly, my local community signed up more people to protest against a phone mast, and our only celebrity was a voiceover actor for Bob the Builder.
It may be time to call a moratorium on global satellite-linked charity music events. In the past fortnight, we have witnessed two, which for all their good intentions were mediocre entertainment and had questionable results.
The Concert For Diana was essentially a super-sized Royal Variety show, a festival of easy listening in which Wembley Stadium was turned into a vast television studio. Although a flaccid, stop-start affair for the live audience, viewing figures suggest it was a success; but it might have worked just as well if broadcast from a theatre, without the over-inflated sense of self-importance.
I have no doubt that the Concert for Diana's anodyne character contributed to the underwhelming response to Live Earth. There are only so many times you want to see rock bands making speeches, and the unfortunate confluence of the two created the sense that the actual content of the shows didn't really matter. The medium drowned out the message.
Live Earth was at once overambitious (it had multiple objectives, both to educate and to recruit, and the result was often comically inappropriate, juxtaposing excessive rock acts such as Metallica with films about not over-filling your kettle) and not ambitious enough. The line-up was no better than an average festival. The stars were supposed to persuade the ordinary people of the urgency of the cause, but if no one could persuade the stars themselves, then it was over before it started.
It was "just an enormous pop concert for the umpteenth time" according to Bob Geldof, a vocal, and prescient, critic of the event. How it would have benefited from his passion and uncompromising directness, not to mention his contacts book.
Live Aid and Live 8 worked because they were urgent, emotive, single-issue events aimed at achieving immediate, tangible results. They had an uncomplicated spirit of universal charity that coincides with the entire ethos of popular music, and were run with a haphazard, devil-may-care approach that tapped into rock's favoured anti-establishment pose. There was a sense of manning the barricades, not preaching from a podium.
The organisers of the Concert for Diana and Live Earth may have improved on the technical organisation, but they did so at a cost to the character. Whatever their good intentions, the danger is that the result will be an increased sense of apathy. I fear Live Earth may have actually set the environmental movement back.
It is certainly going to make it harder to motivate the music community to give up its time and talent in the future. Because the truth of the legend on display at Wembley might have been "We Called - But You Weren't In".
BBC News: Monsters beat Live Earth on US TV
A three-hour NBC programme marking the global day of Live Earth concerts was the least-watched show on mainstream US television on Saturday night.
It attracted an average audience of 2.7 million viewers and was beaten by a re-run of animated film Monsters Inc. ...
In the UK, TV coverage of Live Earth was watched by an average audience of 3.1 million viewers between 2000 and 2200 BST, less than a third of the figure for the previous weekend's Concert for Diana.
Bands including the Arctic Monkeys, The Who and Muse dubbed Live Earth "Private Jets for Climate Change." The event's total carbon footprint, including the artists' and spectators' travel and energy consumption, was probably at least 31,500 tonnes, according to John Buckley of CarbonFootPrint.com - more than 3,000 times the average Briton's annual footprint. Performers flew at least 222,623.63 miles (about 358,278 km) — the equivalent of nearly nine times round the planet — to take part in the event, and this figure does not include transport of technicians, dancers and support staff. However, as Live Earth-linked We're in This Together campaign coordinator and climate-change consultant Steve Howard noted, "The important thing was not to have no carbon footprint and no acts, but to have really great acts."
Concert-goers at the event’s London leg had left thousands of plastic cups on the floor of Wembley Stadium, although organizers had urged audience members to use the recycling bins provided, the BBC reported.