Barrie wins Canadian Live 8 concert

The Canadian Live 8 concert will be held at Park Place in Barrie, Ont.

After weeks of speculation, Barrie, Ont., has won out over Toronto as the location of the upcoming Canadian Live 8 concert.

Concert promoter Michael Cohl, who helped organize the Rolling Stones SARS benefit concert in 2003, announced Tuesday morning that the free concert will take place on July 2 at Barrie's outdoor Park Place concert venue, formerly known as Molson Park.

Performers will range from Canadian icons like Gordon Lightfoot, Bruce Cockburn, Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings to bands like the Barenaked Ladies, Blue Rodeo, Our Lady Peace, the Tragically Hip and Great Big Sea.

"You don't get many chances in your lifetime to be part of a worldwide movement," Great Big Sea frontman Alan Doyle told CBC News. "I'd like to be in the country that leads the world on effecting social change for those who need it most. ... One of the things [Canadians] like to be known for internationally is being the people that care the most."

Set to begin at 11 a.m. and end at 8 p.m., the July 2 concert will be hosted by Dan Aykroyd and Tom Green. Free tickets, limited to two per person, will be distributed beginning Thursday via the Ticketmaster website.

The Live 8 concerts are aimed at raising awareness about world poverty and to pressure the Group of Eight leaders – meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland, from July 6-8 – to increase their foreign aid budgets and cancel debts owed by poor nations.

"It's so important that Canada is involved," Live 8 organizer Bob Geldof said Tuesday through a satellite feed, bringing up the 1969 Pearson Commission report on foreign aid.

Chaired by former prime minister Lester B. Pearson, the international panel issued a report that called for 0.7 per cent of a rich nation's gross national income to be reserved for development assistance to poor nations by 1975.

"Canada put together the proposal for that," Geldof said. "Canada almost has a special obligation in this instance.

"There's no use your prime minister coming to Scotland [for the G8 Summit] unless he's prepared to do this deal," Geldof said, adding that as a country with a budgetary surplus, "there's no reason why the Canadian government would back down ... there's every reason why they should take leadership with this issue.

"Don't let your government come here unless they're really prepared to change the world."

Geldof and Midge Ure, the main proponents of 1985's Live Aid campaign to raise funds for Ethiopian famine relief, reunited recently to organize the upcoming star-studded concerts.

They originally announced five free Live 8 concerts to be staged on July 2: in Philadelphia, London, Paris, Rome and Berlin. Last week, Geldof revealed four more venues: Toronto, Tokyo, Johannesburg and Cornwall, England.

Geldof and Ure also added a subsequent concert and protest rally in Edinburgh on the first day of the G8 summit.

Barrie Mayor Robert Hamilton advised ticketholders to come early – the day before the concert – if they have traffic concerns. However, he stressed that the city is accustomed to hosting large concerts.

"We've done concerts on the weekend at this site, we know what to expect. ... People should come here and spend two or three days and really see what this area has to offer," he told CBC News. Barrie's Park Place, which has a capacity of 35,000 people, is located about 80 kilometres north of Toronto.

"Believe me, Barrie knows how to put on a party. Come with your party clothes because we're raring to go," Hamilton said.

There has been a huge appetite for the Live 8 concerts. For instance, more than two million people applied by text message for the 150,000 available tickets for the highly anticipated London show in Hyde Park. When the free tickets were distributed by lottery, some immediately turned up for sale on online auction site eBay. The tickets drew rapidly rising bids topping more than $1,000 and vocal criticism from Geldof, who urged people to enter bogus bids to inflate the prices to astronomical levels.

Though they specified that auctioning charity tickets is not illegal in the U.K., eBay officials eventually removed the Live 8 tickets from sale less than a day after they first appeared.