It’s OK to be confused about Live 8 and Live Aid. In fact, organizers would probably be thrilled if fans couldn’t distinguish between the two. Why? Because it doesn’t matter. Live Aid was a huge success in 1985 and it helped thousands who were affected by the famines in Africa. Live 8 is not about raising funds directly, but the ultimate goal is the same. So if there are people out there still unsure what Live 8 is all about, tell them it’s about good intentions and good music.
Live 8 is a series of concerts set for July 2 that was conceived in order to capture the attention of the G-8 conference in Scotland, where leaders of the world’s wealthiest countries will gather to discuss the horrendous social and economic conditions in many parts of Africa. It’s debatable whether a bunch of international fatcats gathered for long-winded symposiums and sumptuous meals will ever make a difference in the lives of the suffering, but it’s a sure thing that the artists involved in Live 8 will raise awareness of the issues because they have a track record of having done so before.
Once again Bob Geldof, a member of the Boomtown Rats, is at the center of the event, although now he’s Sir Bob. Besides Live Aid, he was also largely responsible for the Band Aid effort, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and for USA for Africa’s “We Are The World.” This time, Sir Bob has arranged six concerts. Five will take place in five cities on July 2 — London, Berlin, Paris, Rome and Philadelphia — and a sixth will happen in Edinburgh on July 6. The last one will occur at the epicenter of the diplomats’ confab to remind them to spend less time stuffing their faces and pounding cocktails and more time on debt relief and aid to poor African nations.
A lineup of the well-intentioned
The lineup of acts is another who’s who of well-intentioned rockers. U2 is always at the center of any altruistic endeavor in the world of music, and this is no exception. Bono and the boys will headline the London show in Hyde Park along with Sir Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Bob Geldof. All they need is Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Ben Kingsley and they could make a knights of the round table movie. The American version, of course, would star Sir Charles Barkley.
Also scheduled for the London show are REM, Madonna, Pink Floyd, Coldplay, Annie Lennox, Mariah Carey, Keane, Sting and Snoop Dogg.
Snoop Dogg’s presence is sort of a consolation prize for hip-hop fans, because 50 Cent — the reigning king of the genre — originally committed but then had to bow out. Apparently he had double-booked himself, since he will be shooting a film in New York and Toronto on those dates. Bono reportedly called him on his cell to participate, and 50 Cent agreed, then realized his mistake.
Just wondering, but do all music superstars have each other’s cell phone numbers? Does that mean Bono could call Chris Martin of Coldplay whenever he wants? If so, maybe Bono could tell Martin and his cohorts not to take themselves so seriously.
The U.S. show will take place at Philadelphia’s Museum of Art. It will involve such notables as Will Smith (a Philly native who will act as host), Stevie Wonder, Bon Jovi, Dave Matthews Band, Destiny’s Child, P Diddy and Jay-Z. This one will have a more soulful bent. And there isn’t as much royalty involved, so it won’t garner as much international attention. But the collection of names here is more suited to an American sensibility, and therefore the outcome should be just as successful as the British extravaganza.
While the London and Philadelphia stops on Live 8 command the brightest spotlights, the other shows are illustrious in their own ways. The Paris show at the Palais de Versailles will be notable for the presence of Sengalese superstar Youssou N’Dour, a singer-songwriter and composer who is the most recognized African artist in the world. He will be accompanied by Shakira and The Cure, among others.
At the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Crosby, Stills & Nash will perform along with Brian Wilson and Lauryn Hill. Meanwhile, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw will headline at Circus Maximus in Rome.
The “Long Walk To Justice” concert on July 6 will take place near Gleneagles, where the G-8 stuffed shirts will confer. This event doesn’t have the same star power as the others, particularly London and Philadelphia, but that one is less about the music than any of the ones on July 2. Headliners include Dido, Snow Patrol, Travis, the Thrills and the Proclaimers.
Geldof and Midge Ire, who helped Sir Bob organize the original Live Aid in ’85, have asked for a million people to gather in Edinburgh for an anti-poverty rally.
Although concerns have been raised by local law enforcement, Geldof and Ire insist the demonstration will be a peaceful one. And if authorities in Edinburgh bothered to apply logic, they would understand how counterproductive it would be for a massive presence like that to become unruly or disruptive. The same assurances, however, can’t be given when it comes to inebriated public servants participating in the G-8 conference. In fact, if I’m Geldof and Ire and I expect only a million to deal with a coterie of tipsy windbags, I put out a call for reinforcements.
Ultimately, Live 8 is not about the shows themselves, but rather about the curious on the periphery wondering what they’re all about. If people pay attention who otherwise would not have, then standing ovations will be in order all around.
Michael Ventre lives in Los Angeles and is a regular contributor to MSNBC.com.