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There was no doubt about it: London had the most stellar Live Earth lineup. The Beastie Boys, Foo Fighters, Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Madonna, Spinal Tap … do we need to go on? And the Smoking Section was there, backstage at Wembley Stadium (or “Wembledon,” as the Tap’s Nigel Tufnel dubbed it), to suck up all the dirt.

Live Earth is just one stop on the S.S.’s European vacation. In fact, right now we’re on a train to Paris to catch up with Ben Harper, then off to Ibiza to see what James Blunt’s world looks like. In London we pulled double duty, hanging with will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas (whose solo album, Songs for Girls, is out in September) and covering the big gig. So we rolled into Live Earth in the BEP entourage — and they roll in high style. These days, in Europe, they’re as big as the fucking Beatles. It’s absolutely insane.

Most importantly, the weather in London on 7/7/07 was incredible. After twelve days of fog and rain, the skies magically parted for Live Earth, bathing the capacity crowd of 65,000 in sunlight. The show started with a drum circle, featuring Foo Fighter Taylor Hawkins and Chili Chad Smith. Then Genesis. The early shocker was Duran Duran, who mixed in cuts like “Notorious,” “Girls on Film” and Sly & the Family Stone’s “I Wanna Take You Higher.” Though their surprise guest star, Justin Timberlake, didn’t make it to the show (JT had a dressing room and everything but was concentrating on his own gig that night, at London’s O2 arena), the Double D didn’t even need him. “Ordinary World” held up for most of the day as the event’s knockout performance.

In other JT news, on July 6 he and Timbaland joined 50 Cent to shoot the video for Fitty’s next single, “Ayo Technology.” That night, Fitty had an intimate dinner celebrating his 29th birthday. Instead of hitting that low-key affair, the S.S. had dinner at Nobu with the Peas. We sat next to Fergalicious, sharing the delicious yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno. She and will.i.am told us about an episode of Punk’d that will likely never air: will.i.am acted as the accomplice, luring his bandmates into a brothel-like locale full of hot chicks, before the cops raided the joint with the Peas inside. To make a long story short, the Peas’ tour manager, Polo, slugged one of the pseudo-cops in the face (did we mention he was naked?) and the ruse was foiled. “I’m glad, because I probably would’ve made out with one of the girls,” Fergie told us, not joking at all. She was advised that making out with another chick would technically count as cheating on her boyfriend. We went to great pains explaining to Fergie how her BF, Josh Duhamel, would think that her PG-13 lesbianism was pretty hot. That’s a no-brainer.

But we digress. Backstage at Live Earth was out of control. Drinks flowed — ice-cold Heinekens, fruity vodka concoctions — and in true British form, the food was absolutely awful. But there were good vibes and a nice atmosphere. Taped on Spinal Tap’s dressing room door, drawn on a napkin, was a sketch of their Stonehenge prop, replete with actual dimensions (4 inches by 6 inches). At the end of the night we snagged it with the intention of donating it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Until then, though, it is our most cherished piece of rock memorabilia.

Elsewhere, the holy trinity of stand-up comedians — Eddie Izzard, Ricky Gervais and Chris Rock — huddled. Keane singer Tom Chaplin was stoked on Snow Patrol’s set. And the Pussycat Dolls watched most of the show from the VIP stands.

There were also lots of strollers backstage. Metallica’s Lars Ulrich brought his five-week-old baby boy, Bryce, on his very first trip to Europe. And we got to meet Violet Grohl, the most beautiful blue-eyed baby we’ve ever seen. “They grow up so fast,” Dave Grohl told us, wiping invisible tears away from his eyes. Violet, at fourteen months, was all smiles, but obviously didn’t want to be in the Foo’s dressing room. In baby sign-language, she conveyed to her parents and Yours Smokingly that she wanted to put her earplugs back in and check out some more music. On our way into the crowd, Grohl told us that the Foos just recorded a cover of “Band on the Run” at Abbey Road Studios, and that Paul McCartney even graced the sessions with his presence.

When we walked out into the VIP bleachers, we ran into Coldplay drummer (and one of the nicest dudes in the music biz) Will Champion, who had a tattoo on his arm of his own baby’s handprint. He told us that Coldplay is still in the studio, with producers including Brian Eno. They spent six months rehearsing their new songs, and, Will says, they’re “60 percent” done with the record. Chris Martin is in New York, working on vocals.

The Chilis closed their set with a strong take on “By the Way” (singer Anthony Kiedis was sporting a sort of urban poncho, and a haircut that looked just like Tom, Katie and Suri Cruise’s). Metallica, who will play Wembley by themselves tonight, slayed the Live Earth crowd with the one-two punch of “Nothing Else Matters” and “Enter Sandman.” But the Foo Fighters were undeniably unbelievable at Live Earth, slinging out hits like “One by One,” “My Hero,” and, dedicating it to Al Gore, “Times Like These.” What Freddie Mercury was to Live Aid, Grohl was to Live Earth. He was in complete command, strutting out on the catwalk, sprinting to the wings of the stage, singing his ass off. No other band got as strong of a response from the crowd. And no one else truly deserved it as much as the Grohl Fighters.

And there was the message behind Live Earth. Posters in each of the dressing rooms offered the bands a seven-point guide to becoming more environmentally aware and less wasteful. The crowd got the message, also. When James Hetfield screamed, “Make some noise if you give a shit!” they made lots of noise.

After the show we jetted to an intimate soiree at the Haymarket hotel, where James Blunt promised us a debauched time in Ibiza. Then we met up with the Peas at a club called Movida where, upon ordering a magnum of Crystal (for about $2,000), the DJ played the theme from Star Wars and a waiter brought it to the table with a handful of massive sparklers. With goblets in our hands, the dozen of us in the Peas party polished off about twenty bottles of icy-delicious Dom Perignon. We got retarded!
-- Austin Scaggs

Courtesy Rolling Stone.com

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