Live8 - A Glorious Failure?

By londonist_mark Last edited 162 months ago
Live8 - A Glorious Failure?

And so the dust settles on Hyde Park, Live8 and the thousands of stragglers waiting for the first tube home. Our glorious editor kindly provided a tv for some of the day in front of the Londonist dungeon bench and one third of the Londonist Music team sat back to watch the chaos unfold.

Live8 has been a perplexing experience. On the one hand it's been the single biggest act of global protest the world has ever seen. On the other it's been plagued with dodgy line ups, accusations of pandering to the corporate hospitality industry and the feeling that it's all probably a bit of a waste of time. Musically and organisationally it was often a complete shambles and yet none of this should matter and yet often does. All of which make it a tough call.

The first cracks are immediately apparent. The dreaded VIP (nice toilets, no queues, food, alcohol!) area, where some are most definitely more equal than others creates a vacuum at the front of the stage. It doesn't seem to dull the party going on behind but the arial shots show the great disparity that is unforgivable in an event such as this. And stuck in the middle of it all is Londonista Ken who penned a few words from the horrors of his comfy chair and free champagne whilst flirting with the great and the good:

Having been truly apathetic about Live8, having no opinion one way or the other and not even planning to watch it on tv, it was an odd feeling being presented with Golden Circle tickets at 6pm the night before the event.

Apathy transformed into guilt and a certain cynicism on Saturday, however. We felt somewhat uncomfortable being in such a privileged position, swanning about in the Golden Circle (which contained so much free space, picnic blankets were laid out comfortably and blue-eyed, blond-haired children were able to hare around playing 'it') while behind us were people crushed up against a barrier.

Of course, we didn't feel so guilty about it that we'd willingly give up our comfortable privileges and swap places with the unfortunate masses, though. The question is, is that attitude something that translates to the bigger picture?Back on the beeb there's a lovely shot of a pretty young thing dancing at the back of the VIP area in front of the 'poor' people crushed up at the barrier that separates them, and Londonist suddenly visualises a full on zombie attack on said young thing. Now that would have been a statement on the redistribution of wealth. Eat, as they say, the rich!

From what looks like a disused London Eye pod Jonathan Ross provides an ongoing stream of inane drivel and bad pronunciation. Links are cut, interviews lost, sound goes walkabout and Robbie Williams hits on Fearne Cotton like a contestant from the Big Brother house. It's quite painful. Nice to get a couple of shots of Posh and Becks who now look like the King and Queen of high class porn. Londonist decides that if ever Ross gets to Glastonbury we're packing it all in to become Country Music fans. Even worse is that the beeb fail to play any of the videos that are being broadcast on the screens thereby removing some of the political impact of the event and reducing it to an extended chat show.

Musically too the first part of the day is a bit of a shambles. It's never easy when you're trying to turn over so many bands in such a short space of time and the show quickly starts to over run. The gaps between bands are almost as long as their three or four song sets. The art of a long day of music is to start big, and then to drop down and build slowly throughout the day. Which is why U2 do well bringing their theatre of the absurd to the opening but unfortunately their own shows mean that bands such as Coldplay and REM come on early to be followed by Keane (who in a stunning display of massmedia irony are announced as a band to make you happy), Travis and Snow Patrol. REM certainly are one of the most effortlessly brilliant stadium rock bands playing today but the Stipe with the stripe's rallying cry of We're REM and this is what we do seems to fall on bad sound, and an interesting cut away to an interview with Razorlight! And why Velvet Revolver are so high up the bill when no one really knows them is beyond us.

Annie Lennox perfoms a stirling version of These Dreams and the Bridget Jones of pop, Dido ruins 7 Seconds with Youssou N'Dour. Travis do an amusing cover of Staying Alive and Ms Dynamite gets away with not only being one of the token black artists but also Marley's Redemption Song. Collaborations are the order of the day. Coldplay save a ropey performance with Richard Ashcroft but Elton John looks like he can't get off the stage fast enough after Pete Doherty stumbles through Children Of The Revolution, clutching a cheap lighter between his teeth he can hardly hit a note. Career suicide or acceptance into the mainstream - you decide. Personally we thought he sucked goat.

There's much lauding of Sir Bobo (Bob + Bono) but it's left to Snoop Dogg to inject a much welcome degree of irreverence to the proceedings for the first time, ignoring there's such a thing as a naughty words watershed. And it's at this point that noisy Londonist has to leave the fray. Much of the day has already been prone to over bearing worthiness and a guest appearance from Satan himself, Bill Gates, calls us to question motives once again. But these are moot points in the grand scheme of things. Because one thing becomes abundantly clear. Even more frightening than everyone clicking their fingers every three seconds to show another human dying in poverty is the mention that 8 men purport to control the fates of millions, of billions. 8! That's utterly fucking terrifying and that's before looking at who those 8 men are.

It's easy to tear the day to shreds on so many levels and yet you're left with the nagging doubt that any form of criticism will lead to your head being posted on traitors gate. It's easy to sneer at the old timers who cram the top half of the bill, after all, how many of us were glad our new favourite band weren't caught up in the mid stream mire of the uncool (and yet how many of them will become the Stings of the next 20 years?) And yet as (dear God we hate to say this) Jeremy Clarkson pointed out, for all it's faults at least they're doing something. And here's the crunch. This event was directed squarely at the normal folks. The everymen and women of this country, the middle of the road folks, the Dido lovers, the Heat readers, the massed middle classes and the white van people. Those who have vague thoughts of making the world a better place but still leave litter strewn across the main field of Glastonbury or no doubt the green grass of Hyde Park. It's not about the hey scenester bloggers or the too hip to be square fashionistas, musos and trend setters. And in our rush to remove ourselves as far as possible from Sir Bobo's rantings the question remains as to what we're doing about the horrendous injustices that perpetrate the world today. Or are we as guilty of the comfortable complacency that we accuse the others of? Because reading Naomi Klein and writing poetry isn't exactly going to change the world either.

And that's why Madonna, Robbie Williams, Macca, The Who and Pink Floyd - back on stage together for the first time in over 20 years get the rousing receptions they do And if there's one indication that there's nothing that's broken that can't be fixed it's this performance, despite the pained look on Dave Gilmour's face. Geldof's been pretty clever in booking the bands he has. He's pulled in those who will pull in the people he wants to talk to. Those with the bulk of the voting power. And he's done it across each of the shows the world over.

Live8's success or failure in the long run will ultimately not be what happens at Gleneagles next week but in how the 3 odd billion people who watched the event across the world change their lives as a result. If even 1% start rocking the boat, as well as the vote then something good will have come of it. Do we think that a couple of big gigs will change the attitudes of the most powerful men in the world? Of course not. Anyone who thinks baby Bush gives a flying fuck about anything not wearing a turban and sitting on his doorstep is either rabidly Republican or seriously deluded. If you want a government to listen to the people you're only going to do it with a gun pointed at their head or the threat of removing them and their office at election and there's a definite no weapons clause at the gates we're sure.

It may end up being a glorious failure after all the music has faded into history but one thing still remains. 200 000 people in London, 1.5 million in Philadelphia, hundreds of thousands more across the world and billions sitting at home gathered together under the banner of wanting to make a difference and no matter how fickle, all will have been given cause to think at some point. That in itself is an enormous success and testament to the pig headedness of a few individuals. The greatest threat to the world today is complacency. As Ghandi once said:

For evil to triumph it is only necessary that good people do nothing.

For an event on such a massive scale that occasionally feels like a really creepy version of the Oscars it's on the level of the personal that the changes need to be made. There are no easy routes to resolving the horrendous problems we've created in Africa and it's going to take more than a million Geldof's to come near to start cleaning them up. The hypocrisy of many world leaders in their attitudes towards the homicidal African dictators they once supplied or supported should rankle in the throats of every human being. But at the same time it's undeniable that if we continue to leave things as they are then they're not going to get any better. One man doing one little thing makes little sound but a billion people doing little things can make shock waves that will echo for generations. No matter whether you feel Live8 was cynical posturing or the tide turning if it's made you think a little more, and if those thoughts turn to actions no matter how small there may indeed be no reason to have to have another twenty years down the line.

Last Updated 04 July 2005