Amnesty International concert at Barclays Center: Imagine Dragons, beneficiaries Pussy Riot to perform

Two members of anti-Kremlin punk band Pussy Riot,

Two members of anti-Kremlin punk band Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, right, and Maria Alekhina smile as they meet in the airport of the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, some 3500 km (2174 miles) east of Moscow. (Dec. 24, 2013) (Credit: Getty Images)

For more than 30 years, Amnesty International has had a fruitful partnership with musicians. The star-studded shows the organization has put on to support its work on behalf of the unjustly imprisoned, persecuted and abused are legendary.

First were the Secret Policeman's Ball events in London, featuring luminaries such as Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend. Next came the 1986 Conspiracy of Hope concerts with U2 and Lou Reed. And then there was the high-water mark (so far), 1988's Human Rights Now! world tour, headlined by Bruce Springsteen, Sting and Peter Gabriel.

More recently, things have been quieter. Although Amnesty has remained close to rock stars, it hasn't sponsored a mega-show since 1998. That's about to change Wednesday, when the "Bringing Human Rights Home" concert comes to Barclays Center.

Topping the bill are "Radioactive" hitmakers and 2014 Grammy winners Imagine Dragons, space-rock veterans the Flaming Lips, hip-hop diva Lauryn Hill -- and two beneficiaries of Amnesty's work, Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alekhina of Russian punk band Pussy Riot, who spent 21 months in jail on charges of "hooliganism" for opposing Vladimir Putin's government.

"Twenty-five years ago, Amnesty joined with some of the greatest musical artists of the era, and they used their talents to throw a light on human rights abuses around the world," says Steven Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA. "That helped inspire a whole generation of young activists. Our membership tripled during that period. Now, it's time to engage with a new generation of artists in the same way and inspire another generation of activists."

Amnesty's broad reach

Many people still associate Amnesty mainly with political prisoners, but Hawkins notes that the organization's brief is much broader than that. "The human rights concerns of today range from surveillance issues to the plight of the LGBT community to human trafficking, criminal justice and workers' rights," he says. "But obviously, we're still committed to our work with prisoners of conscience. That's one of the reasons why we invited Pussy Riot."

Imagine Dragons leader Dan Reynolds hasn't worked with Amnesty before, but he's familiar with its history. "A few years ago," he explains, "our manager represented a refugee from Africa who was trying to gain asylum in the U.S., and Amnesty played a big part in helping him win the case. They seem to be involved in almost all the major struggles around the world, so it was cool to hear about a small but important victory so close to home.

All in, sight unseen

"When we heard that Amnesty was relaunching its Human Rights Concert Series," Reynolds said, "we knew immediately we wanted to be a part of it. Some of the most important moments in music history happened at these shows. I don't think we even knew the lineup or anything at that stage, but we knew we had to be there."

"Dan was incredibly interested in this from the start," Hawkins confirms, "and many other artists have really stepped forward, too. For me, that's a strong signal that the work of Amnesty still resonates in the artist community."

Nobody's expecting one concert to triple Amnesty membership the way A Conspiracy of Hope and Human Rights Now! did in the '80s. But Hawkins has an ambitious goal: "My ideal would be for every young concertgoer to walk away with an appreciation for what Amnesty is doing and a burning desire to get involved."

And should we expect any show surprises? "We could tell you," Reynolds quips, "but then we would probably have to inflict some kind of punishment that goes against Amnesty's values. Let's leave it at that."

WHAT Amnesty International's Bringing Human Rights Home

WHEN|WHERE 8 p.m. Wednesday, Barclays Center, Brooklyn

TICKETS $54.50-$255; 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com

The lineup

Here's a rundown of the performers confirmed so far for the Bringing Human Rights Home concert.

Imagine Dragons Their penchant for booming rock anthems such as "Radioactive" and "It's Time" makes them well suited to an event like this.

The Flaming Lips Oklahoma psychedelic explorers who've specialized in live spectacle for more than 25 years.

Lauryn Hill A '90s superstar with the Fugees and as a solo artist, she's been mostly underground since, but appears to be resurfacing at last.

Tegan and Sara This quirky Canadian duo had a major hit in 2013 with its seventh album, "Heartthrob."

The Fray Purveyors of emotional piano-powered pop ("How to Save a Life," "You Found Me").

Cold War Kids Eclectic, surprisingly soulful indie rockers.

Colbie Caillat Warm-voiced California balladeer still probably best known for 2007's "Realize."

Cake Longtime alt faves distinguished by singer John McCrea's fondness for sarcasm.

Pussy Riot This all-female outfit -- part punk rock, part performance art -- got in serious trouble with Russian authorities for a 2012 protest concert they held in a Moscow cathedral. Because only two members of the group (which includes up to 11 women) are coming to Brooklyn, it's doubtful they'll perform, but they'll certainly have plenty to say.

For more information, visit amnestyusa.org/Feb5concert

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