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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Millions were gathering at concert venues across the world Saturday for a massive musical effort to focus attention on global poverty.

Live 8, dubbed the greatest show on earth, began in Tokyo and Johannesburg followed by Berlin and London.

Paul McCartney launched the showpiece UK Live 8 in the capital's Hyde Park with Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, followed by U2 with "One."

The biggest event was due to open later in Philadelphia with a million people expected.

The day, featuring 260 acts at 10 venues on four continents, was expected to attract the biggest ever global television audience of two billion people.

The day began in Tokyo, where Iceland's Bjork and U.S. rockers Good Charlotte joined a handful of Japanese bands for the concert which drew a disappointing crowd of around 10,000 after being a late addition to the bill.

The scene was different in London where CNN's Monita Rajpal reported 200,000 people streaming into the Live 8 site in the capital's Hyde Park.

She said that the London show -- billed the largest musical event ever held in Britain -- was being seen as the heart of Live 8 efforts worldwide.

Security was tight, she said, for the free show for 150,000 people, with another 55,000 expected to watch on giant screens in the park. More than 1,000 police officers are on duty.

Live 8 is named after next week's Group of Eight (G8) summit, a gathering of leaders of the world's wealthiest nations in Gleneagles, Scotland.

The concerts which are being held to raise awareness of global poverty and pressure G8 nations to do more to alleviate suffering.

Rajpal read from an open letter in Britain's Independent newspaper from Bob Geldof in which the organizer of the concert appealed to G8 leaders to deliver an extra $25 billion dollars in effective aid for Africa alongside a further $25 billion dollars for the other poorest countries around the world.

Geldof said the G8 summit also needed to confirm the cancellation of all debt for all countries that need it and remove damaging economic policies imposed as a condition, and make "decisive steps" to end unjust trade, allowing poor countries to build their own economies.

"We will not applaud half-measures, or politics as usual. This must be a historic breakthrough," the letter said.

"Today there will be noise and music and joy, the joy of exuberant possibility. On Friday there will be great silence as the world awaits your verdict," it continued.

"Do not disappoint us. Do not create a generation of cynics. Do not betray the desires of billions and the hopes of the poorest of our world."

CNN's Richard Quest in Philadelphia meanwhile reported crowds flocking in hot sunshine for the concert there expected at attract up to a million people.

"They are coming by in their thousands in shorts and T-shirts ready to battle against the hot mid 80 degree temperatures expected here," he said.

"For hours they have been streaming towards the Museum of Art, where the giant open air concert will be held."

Quest said that among the stars appearing at the Philadelphia event were the actor and musician Will Smith.

"Last night, on the red carpet outside the party he was throwing for the stars, he told me he'd been briefed on African poverty and the issues by non other than Bono's team of advisors.

"In fact Bono was largely responsible for many of the acts appearing, having personally telephoned the rock group Linkin Park and asked them to join in. As they told me last night, when Bono asks you don't say no."

The series of 10 concerts comes 20 years to the month after dozens of musicians gathered for the Live Aid concerts to combat starvation in Africa, which raised more than $140 million.

As huge as that event was, this weekend's endeavor is of a bigger scale again.

Put together by Live Aid organizer Geldof, a total of 150 artists were participating.

Concerts were being held in London, England; Paris, France; Berlin, Germany; Rome, Italy; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Barrie, Ontario; Johannesburg, South Africa; Tokyo, Japan, Moscow, Russia and at the Eden project in Cornwall, England, where a special African program was being staged.

The London concert includes Coldplay, Dido, Ms Dynamite, Madonna, Sting and Robbie Williams.

The Philadelphia line-up includes Bon Jovi, Destiny's Child, Alicia Keys and P Diddy.

CNN's Jeff Koinange reported from the Johannesburg concert which he said had been added at the last minute and featured leading Reggae artist Lucky Dube.

"The scene is really upbeat," he said. "People here are saying the message must be sent by Africans themselves."

Meanwhile CNN's Chris Burns reported from Berlin where former Beach Boy Brian Wilson, Roxy Music and alternative band Green Day were due to appear.

Geldof said Thursday that the concerts will be the "final push" in getting the world's richest leaders to come to the aid of impoverished Africa.

In an interview with CNN, Geldof said the goal of doubling aid for Africa by 2010 to $25 billion -- laid out by the Commission for Africa, which British Prime Minister Tony Blair is spearheading -- almost has been met.

Geldof said he hopes G8 leaders will pledge the funds at next week's summit.

"We're almost there," he said. "We're within $2 billion. I think we can knock that off in Gleneagles.

"I've been on the phone with Bono, and we're going, 'Is this happening?' Live 8 ... is actually the final push now. It's no longer the startup engine."

Also on Saturday, organizers were urging millions to gather in the streets of London, Washington, Berlin, Paris, Rome and Edinburgh as part of "The Long Walk to Justice."

Music buffs are most excited about the London concert, which will reunite Pink Floyd's Roger Waters and David Gilmour for the first time in decades.

"Any squabble Roger and the band have had in the past are so petty in this context, and if re-forming for this concert will help focus attention, then it's got to be worthwhile," Gilmour said in a statement on the band's Web site.

Waters added he was excited to "be given the opportunity to put the band back together, even if it's only for a few numbers."

"It's great to be asked to help Bob raise public awareness about Third World debt and poverty."

Despite vowing he'd never undertake a Live Aid effort again after the strain of organizing the 1985 shows, Geldof -- who has been knighted for his efforts, and is now called "Saint Bob" by the British tabloids -- said the need to bring aid to Africa is a cause too important to ignore.

"The only constant in economic decline is Africa," he said. "And we can get to the root of that, and we can stop people dying live on our screens every night on CNN if we really solve this."

He said organizers won't be able to "stop the dying immediately, but we are dealing with the roots of that poverty."

Geldof also praised U.S. President George W. Bush, who announced Thursday he was proposing to double U.S. aid to Africa by 2010 -- an estimated $8.6 billion, up from $4.3 billion in 2004.

"This is the first time we have heard this sort of language," Geldof said. "This is very, very positive indeed."

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