Monday, January 15, 2007

Live Aid and Live 8: DVDs That Save Lives

"This DVD saves lives" is printed on the booklet to Live Aid. "The long walk to justice" is on the Live 8 booklet. Both boxes display the distinctive guitar with a body in the shape of the African continent. Both sets contain 4 DVDs packed with performances by a mixture of legendary and relatively unknown musicians. Both continue to raise money for African relief and push for debt relief and fair trade.

Because of its time, Live Aid is the more dramatic of the two sets. Disc One starts with a BBC Television report from the summer of 1984 about the terrible famine in Ethiopia. Most of the 7 or 8 minutes of the report show emaciated children in a refugee camp. All have terribly skinny arms and legs, and many of the dying already seem mummified. Every morning the dead are wrapped in what looks like burlap and are lined up along the edge of camp for removal in open bed trucks. Many of these corpses are shockingly small.

After a slow fadeout, the DVD takes the viewer to late fall in London for the filming of the Band Aid Video "Do They Know It's Christmas" and then to spring in the United States for the shooting of the USA for Africa Video "We Are the World." In the wake of the BBC report, these performances are quite moving. After these pieces, the DVD moves to Wimbley Stadium London on July 13, 1985 where Prince Charles and Princess Diana enter the stadium with Bob Geldof for a day of mostly rock music. Later on Disc One the concert from JFK Stadium in Philadelphia begins.

According to the booklet in Live Aid, there was to have been no recording of the 1985 concerts. Geldof had said it was to be a one day event to be remembered, but the BBC and MTV ignored his directive. Both television companies recorded but then lost their tapes for years. When Live Aid staff went looking for the material in the 21st century, some of it had been destroyed. What is left is incomplete. Still four DVDs is a lot of music.

The 1985 concert was beset with technical difficulties, so the sound quality of some of the performances suffers, but many of the songs are still quite good. My favorites are "Rockin' All Over the World" by Status Quo, "I Don't Like Mondays" by the Boomtown Rats, "We Will Rock You" by Queen, "Footloose" by Kenny Loggins, "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" by Elton John and Kiki Dee, and "White Room" by Eric Clapton. By flying over the Atlantic in the Concorde, Phil Collins sings "Against All Odds" in London and "In the Air Tonight" in Philadelphia.

I believe I enjoy the Live 8 DVDs more than the 1985 set. The sound is better, the cameras are sharper, and direction is improved. More musical genres are included. Concerts in more cities are included. I like that the venues are parks instead of stadiums and that there are more pans of the audience. The 2005 set also introduced me to acts that I had never heard. I particularly like "Da-Na-Mi-Tee" by Ms. Dynamite, "Somewhere Only We Know" by Keane, and "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by the Proclaimers. The last half of Disc Three with Stevie Wonder, The Who, Pink Floyd, and Paul McCartney in succession is terrific.

Because of the events they document and the variety of artists performing, both Live Aid and Live 8 are excellent additions to any library collection.

No comments: