BY MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER
Robert Plant has confirmed that he will join Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller and more for select dates on the Lampedusa tour, including a show at the Merriam Theater Oct. 19. The tour is an 11-stop run intended to raise awareness about the unprecedented worldwide refugee crisis.
“I’m taking a break from recording the new Sensational Space Shifters record to be a part of this very important and worthwhile cause,” the former Led Zeppelin frontman said in a statement. “When I watch the news and see people from these places being displaced by hatred and ignorance, I know that these people are just like you and me. All they want is to live in peace and have their children grow up loved, fed and educated.”
“That seems a million miles away for many people at the moment. They are living in refugee camps, in conditions that are far below sustenance levels.”
The concerts will be intimate evenings of acoustic performances benefiting Jesuit Refugee Service’s Global Education Initiative. The Lampedusa tour helps displaced people heal, learn, and thrive by providing educational opportunities for refugees living in camps and urban settings in 45 countries.
“Lampedusa: Concerts for Refugees” is named for the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, the Italian island off the coast of Sicily which serves as a waypoint to Europe in refugees’ search for safety and security. It is also where Pope Francis visited refugees during his first official trip as Pope in July of 2013.
“Immigrants dying at sea, in boats which were vehicles of hope and became vehicles of death — that is how the headlines put it,” Pope Francis said in his homily there. “When I first heard of this tragedy a few weeks ago, and realized that it happens all too frequently, it has constantly come back to me like a painful thorn in my heart. So I felt that I had to come here today, to pray and to offer a sign of my closeness, but also to challenge our consciences lest this tragedy be repeated.”
The artists taking part in the tour stress that it’s about humane treatment of people, and shouldn’t be considered a platform for politics. The funds raised by Lampedusa will support educational programs for refugees around the world. The mission of Jesuit Refugee Service is, “to accompany, serve and advocate for the rights of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons.”
“This is a humanitarian issue — it is not a political issue,” said Patty Griffin. “These are real people with real needs and it’s not going to go away and we have to deal with these issues in a realistic way, and realism has to do with compassion.”
For Plant, he could be doing a dozen other things right now, including giving endless interviews about the recently released Led Zeppelin set ‘The Complete BBC Sessions.’ Instead, his very presence on the tour — a surprise one at that — gives it some additional clout and will undoubtedly bring the intimate venues to sold out status if they weren’t already.
“When I heard that some of my friends were rallying to do a series of concerts to help raise funds and awareness, to help address the basic needs of food, shelter and medical care, I wanted to help, in whatever way I could,” Plant said. “One thing that I want to make clear: as with all the other members of this tour, I will be performing two or three songs a night and no more.”
“I’m not making a political statement. The organization that is receiving these funds is a religious one. This appeal is trying to help on the ground wherever it can. I hope that my voice, along with my friends, helps bend the arc of the universe a little more toward the loving and helps with the work of getting the basic essentials of life to those who are without.”
To contact music columnist Michael Christopher, send an email to email@example.com. Also, check out his blog at www.delcotimes.com.