The Live 8 lineup seemed to be full of people who were around the first time Bob Geldof pulled together something like this. Some may complain, but I think that’s fair. It doesn’t take much to get 20-year-olds interested in a poverty-related protest — if you can’t appeal to their youthful idealism, tell them babes will be involved — but Geldof and company clearly want to appeal across the demographics here.
Besides, anyone over the age of 30 had to be thinking, “Pink Floyd? Together?”
Yes, they were, and they were pretty good.
Let’s be clear — Roger Waters is a stubborn old crank. It’s tough to blame David Gilmour for taking the Pink Floyd banner and running with it after Waters checked out. Gilmour suffered through Waters’ growing megalomania in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and he deserved a lucrative turn as sole frontman.
But you had to be happy for Waters on this day. He always fell into the cynical idealist camp — those people who want good things to happen but see conspiracies preventing them. He was clearly thrilled to be there for the cause, and he deserved to take an honorable bow with his old band.
I’ve read that Waters’ singing was shaky on Comfortably Numb, but I don’t buy it. On The Wall, Waters wasn’t singing as much as he was playing a character (played in the creepy movie, coincidentally, by Bob Geldof). From what I heard (I had left the TV and was in the car with XM by that point), he was his old self. And that’s what the song requires. Well, that and one of the greatest guitar solos of all time, dutifully rendered by the masterful Gilmour. That brought back memories of my high school guitar-playing days, sitting out in my room trying to get those deceptively quick licks down.
The BBC reviewer, who seems to be even more of a classic rock hound than I am, wasn’t impressed with The Killers, Snow Patrol or Velvet Revolver. I was. A lot of performers in this atmosphere are too tentative, but not Weiland and the ex-Gunners, who flat out rocked. The Killers and Snow Patrol just came out and showed why they’re two of the best young bands around. The Killers were moving and powerful.
(Incidentally, the Guns N Roses Web site is a little … dormant.)
Sting and The Who were amazing. Sting’s Driven to Tears was an appropriate song choice played with an urgency that had to get the crowd going. As for The Who — when did Pete Townshend start playing such sharp guitar fills? He always viewed himself as the rhythm guitarist while late bassist John Entwistle played “lead.” (Incidentally, I just downloaded another great example of this style — a version of White Room in which Clapton sticks to the chords in the verses and lets bassist Nathan East cut loose.)
Over in Philly, I thought Def Leppard showed a nice bit of spirit, and I have to say I hope I age as well as Phil Collen. Sarah McLachlan was, in a word, lovely — she looked fantastic, with that mix of elegance and friendliness that few can project, and her solo versions of Fallen and World on Fire were more compelling than the studio version. Bringing out Josh Groban to join her on Angel was a nice touch; I don’t know much about the guy, but his voice meshed very well with Sarah’s.
Some of the things I heard on XM were awful. Travis should never, ever, ever again attempt to sing the Bee Gees.
MTV proved itself to be utterly incompetent. I know the joke for the last 10 years is that they don’t play music any more. It goes beyond that. They’re not interested in music anymore. They spent most of the time yapping … perky young ignorati going on and on about what a wonderful event they were ignoring.
The worst offense …
Imagine that you’re watching The Who power through Won’t Get Fooled Again. Pete Townshend is hanging onto that chord as the keyboards kick in. The crowd is waiting for the drums to rev up for Roger Daltrey’s climactic “YEEAAAAAHHHH!!” …
… and MTV cuts back to its young idiots.
Yes, that’s right. They skipped the definitive moment of one of the most essential songs in rock history.
I’m sure the BBC, which I monitored a little bit, did better. They also had a video feed from what must have been the smallest Live 8 show, the all-African lineup at Cornwall. That’s an odd choice — a bunch of African musicians in the remotest corner of England. But it seemed pretty cool from what I saw.
So will anyone get the message? Hard to say. From the Web chatter I saw, it seemed that a number of people assumed they were asking for money. But they weren’t.
I am a little surprised that this isn’t more controversial, though. Joining this cause isn’t a no-brainer. But perhaps it’s not so much the specifics of debt relief and foreign aid as it is the more general sense of harnessing idealism. That sounds naive, I know, but even snarky libertarians such as The Economist are seeing some useful ways to spend money in Africa. The closing sentence of their editorial on African aid (which, curiously, doesn’t mention Live 8) is eloquent: “Cynicism is only the most common form of naivety.” I’ll have to remember that when dealing with those who mistake cynicism with intelligence.
Beyond poverty relief, I think it’s reassuring to see a worldwide effort for the cooperative aspect. When I did some research on Moscow today, I was thoroughly depressed — the Russian news agencies seem to be reviving the Cold War rhetoric for some reason. The message of an event like this is that people can be more powerful than their governments. Maybe our governments hate each other, but we don’t have to do so. Besides, I think one unifying force in the world today is that we all hate our governments, don’t we?
The concert was, of course, too much to watch at once. I’m sure XM will be playing plenty of highlights over the next few weeks, and the BBC should have it on their on-demand radio player. Sounds good to me.
(Housekeeping note: Posting on this blog is going to be a little slow for the rest of the summer. Lots to do, and I’d like to spend some time away from the computer.)