The celebrities who enthralled the 40,000 fans packing the Green Point Stadium on Saturday night included big names like Bono, Queen, The Corrs and Beyonce Knowles.
But it was Nelson Mandela who drew the largest cheers from the crowd gathered under a cloudless sky for the fund-raising concert.
Having overcome apartheid, the former South African president has now turned his eyes on getting the better of HIV and AIDS.
The musical extravaganza was part of his 46664 campaign – named after his prison number when he was jailed during South Africa’s apartheid era – to mobilise governments to declare HIV/AIDS a global emergency and the crowds roared in approval, chanting “Nelson, Nelson”.
Threat to humanity
“AIDS was a threat to humanity, but like apartheid it would be beaten,” Mandela said.
Mandela (L), Bono (2nd L) Dave
The music stars agreed and lent their voice to Mandela in his latest mission.
First to perform was US pop star Beyonce, who rose up from below the stage in a puff of smoke, clad in a revealing multi-coloured dress.
“My ladies, I want to tell all of you out there that there is nothing sexier than being confident and taking care of yourselves,” Knowles said to whoops from the audience.
Irish singer Bob Geldof paid tribute to Mandela, saying that AIDS had moved far beyond the confines of hospitals and wards to become a major political issue.
“Mr Mandela has decided in his old age that AIDS is the greatest political peril in the world…and we agree with that,” he said.
The crowds sang along as Geldof performed the Bob Marley reggae tune Redemption Song.
But the importance of the event was not lost even in the din.
“Today we find ourselves faced with an even greater threat in the form of HIV and AIDS which threatens our future on a scale never seen before. We are called to fight now on an even greater scale than which we fought apartheid,” Mandela reminded the audience.
At least 40 million people worldwide are known to have been infected with HIV or have AIDS. UN agencies issued a report on Tuesday showing deaths and new cases reached unprecedented highs in 2003.