Show Review

Live8 concerts

Saturday, July 2

available on The July 2 Live8 concerts held at venues across the world were a wonder to behold - but American viewers were shafted by MTV and VH-1, which showed only a tiny fraction of the performances and cut short the ones they did show.

After hundreds of thousands of e-mailed and phoned complaints to the networks, they relented and showed 10 hours of uninterrupted coverage this past weekend, giving us a taste of how remarkable Live8 really was.

Given the London terror attacks last week, the tape of the concert was recontextualized and, if anything, made their message of ending poverty in Africa even more important. The hundreds of artists were sending a message of peaceful political process, while the terrorists were sending a message of hatred and war.

Watching the uninterrupted coverage last weekend only reinforced just what a botched job MTV and VH-1 did on the day of the event. It's one thing to cut away from a performance by, say, Bryan Adams for an acne commercial; but it's quite a different thing to break away from Pink Floyd's set, as MTV did July 2, in order for VJs to babble about how historic the whole thing was.

In what was perhaps the greatest assortment of rock stars ever gathered for a one-day event, MTV chose to cover it as if it was an everyday event. And although the political aspect of the shows - to put pressure on the G-8 countries in regards to debt forgiveness to Africa - was ruined by the one-week TV delay, their message was loud and clear.

Opening the show in London, Paul McCartney and U2 performed an uninspired version of "Sgt. Pepper." But when McCartney left the stage, U2 played an incendiary version of "Beautiful Day" that, combined with the crowd shots of the hundreds of thousands gathered at Hyde Park, stands in stark irony to the terror attacks of last week.

"Paul McCartney, what a gift to the world," Bono said, before morphing the end of "Beautiful Day" with the Beatles' "Blackbird." The lyrics "You were only waiting for this moment to arise" seemed quite appropriate. "Vertigo" and "One" only further reinforced the notion of U2 as the world's greatest rock and roll band.

In London, Coldplay played a technically flawless set devoid of emotion and spark except for "Bittersweet Symphony," while Linkin Park and Jay-Z threw caution to the winds and played an amazing set in Philadelphia of mash-ups.

Jay's "Big Pimpin'" was melded with Linkin Park's "Papercut." "Jigga What" was matched with "Faint." It was an unexpected but delightful surprise.

Watching the uninterrupted highlights, it became apparent that there was just too much music for one network to cover, let alone a network with 15 minutes of commercials per hour. Even on Saturday's expanded coverage, vital parts were still missing.

Luckily, not only Webcast the event live but has each performance available on its site for the next five weeks. It's there that the true gems of Live8 can shine so brightly.

Over in Berlin, a reunited Roxy Music covered John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" in a dignified, poignant fashion, while The Cure revisited its past on the stage in Paris. Playing a set that included "Boys Don't Cry," their breakout song from the late 1970s, The Cure seemed as young and as vibrant as the day they first formed.

The brilliant performances continued with Joss Stone's soulful voice in London and the Black Eyed Peas, who brought along the Marley family for "Get Up, Stand Up." Bigg Snoop Dogg, joined by Charlie Wilson, played a magnificent set that included "Drop It Like It's Hot" and the uncensorable "What's My Name," which on the July 2 broadcast was heavily edited but not enough so that at least a dozen curse words passed through the censor.

The censors also got a workout on Green Day's set in Berlin, which started with "American Idiot" and ended with a surprisingly effective version of Queen's "We Are The Champions."

Back in London, Bob Geldof showed a clip from a mid-1980s documentary on the Ethiopian famine, which ended with a shot of a starving child's face. In perhaps the most emotional moment of the show, he brought out the child, now a beautiful young woman who just finished college. "Don't let them tell you that you can't make a difference," Geldof said, before introducing Madonna.

After a brief set from two of the guys who used to be in The Who, Pink Floyd took the stage for the first time in 24 years. Nothing's changed within the band; Roger Waters still dislikes the other members, which thankfully keeps them from cashing in on a reunion tour.

But for 20-plus minutes, Floyd reigned supreme, sounding as if they'd never stopped touring. A medley from "Dark Side of the Moon" was followed by "Wish You Were Here" and "Comfortably Numb," with its epic guitar solo. David Gilmour never sounded better.

In Philadelphia, Stevie Wonder played a typical on-point set, which included his new, powerful song, "So What The Fuss," in which he condemns not just the politicians but we who have allowed them to remain unchecked for many years.

The show ended with Sir Paul performing a few Beatles hits, the most effective of which was "Helter Skelter." "The Long and Winding Road" was transformed from a quaint love song into an anthem for the long and difficult walk to justice that Africa, and the rest of the world, now faces.

As a political maneuver, Live8 didn't achieve its goal of causing the United States to double its aid to Africa. And by blunting its political message with a travesty of a live broadcast in America, MTV cheated U.S. viewers as well.

But the performances, still available for viewing online, will live on forever. It's just tragic that MTV made such a debacle of the original broadcast, when Live8's political message was most important.


Recommended for you