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Live Earth New York Rocks Giants Stadium

The Smashing Pumpkins were back together. Alicia Keys and Keith Urban sang “Gimme Shelter.” Hell, Kanye West even rapped with the Police on “Message in a Bottle.”

If Saturday’s (July 7) Live Earth taught us anything, it’s that star power, good music or, you know, Sting, can bring people together for a cause. Movie stars, politicians and musicians alike preached a message of conservation at throughout the six-hour event at Giants Stadium. Al Gore asked the world to change their light bulbs, plant a tree and drive less.

What the millions watching around the world may not have picked up from their TVs, however is that Jersey is still Bon Jovi’s house. What started out as a heavily factioned crowd — some out for a reunited Pumpkins, some for Dave Matthews, most for The Police — became 52,000 fans screaming “Livin’ on a Prayer” at top decibel. And it was awesome.

What was also clear is that this wasn’t emo’s day. Hours before the Jersey heroes took the stage, Taking Back Sunday’s Adam Lazzara wailed away on “Liar (It Takes One to Know One) and “MakeDamnSure.” Case in point: When Leonardo DiCaprio came on minutes later, the crowd went wild. After a rousing set from Ludacris (shake that moneymaker!), AFI arrived — frontman Davey Havok inexplicably bundled up in a white suit, long-sleeved black shirt underneath — in 90-degree weather. Way to keep the angst alive. Again, the crowd didn’t know what to make of “Love Like Winter” and “Miss Murder,” but it’s possible the band made a few more fans with their heartfelt cover of David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust.”

Little Miss Sunshine‘s Abigail Breslin and her older brother, Spencer, intro’d Kelly Clarkson, who started things off with “Walk Away,” then moved into “Never Again” and other new songs off her latest LP, My December. One might think Clive Davis would have preferred her to throw in “Breakaway” or “Miss Independent” to keep the crowd going, and he would have been right. Everyone seemed excited enough to hear “Since U Been Gone,” but it’s clear Clarkson has lost some of her mojo.

Leave it to Kanye West to rouse everyone from the afternoon’s sun-drenched daze. Whereas every other artist barely squeezed three or four songs into their set, Kanye blasted the convention by moving seamlessly between every single one of his hits. The man barely took a breath between “Heard ‘Em Say,” “All Falls Down,” and “Jesus Walks,” all while frantically jumping across the stage. By the time “Gold Digger” blasted from the speakers, the crowd was in a frenzy. Finally, during “Touch the Sky,” he sprinted across the full length of the stage, strutted back, and dropped the mic. This was Live Earth.

Any act would have had trouble following Bon Jovi in Jersey (especially the aforementioned “Livin’ on a Prayer”), but Billy Corgan had a bigger challenge than most, considering he hasn’t had a bona fide radio hit in over ten years. Opening with “United States” off new album Zeitgeist was a wash, but “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” got everyone up. Though he didn’t say much about climate change, Corgan encouraged everyone to buy the Pumpkins new album. “We all know you’re going to buy it, and not illegally download it, like all our other albums. Just kidding.” He probably wasn’t. “Today” was a fine set ender, but it was obvious that after seven hours of music, 52,000 people were getting anxious for the Police.

Their set? OK. In the end, it was Kanye who was most memorable. With John Mayer’s help, he made “Roxanne,” the last song of Live Earth, a truly worthwhile listen for a truly worthwhile cause. Check out Climate Protect to see what you can do. ROBIN MONHEIT / PHOTOS BY MICHAEL DIDYOUNG

We asked: What brought you out to Live Earth today?