Sunday, July 10

Why Live-8 matters far beyond the G-8 summit

Originally Posted on Truth2Power:

This past weekend the historic Live 8 Concerts took place simultaneously in ten countries, featuring over 150 artists and bringing out over 1 Million people to watch, listen and enjoy.

But did it make a difference?

Interrupted temporarily by the London Bombings, this years G-8 Conference - which was the focus of the concert - moves forward, led by British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Exactly how much pressure the concerts were able to put on the events of the conference remains unclear. The goal of using the combined financial and logistical weight of the G-8 Nations to finally begin to seriously address the blight of hunger in the continent of Africa, was already of primary goal of Mr. Blair. Will it remain a priority for the Million-plus people at the concerts or the Millions more who watched the simultaneous live broadcasts on Vh1 and MTV?

Will it remain a priority even for the artists who performed?

20 Years ago at the original Live-Aid you had several performances of undeniable power and impact. Images that have lasted through the decades and still bring to mind the boundless optimism, possible even the naivette of that time.

  • U2's Bono climbing out into the crowd and hugging a crying audience member during the middle of their set.

  • The Late Freddie Mercury - in what turned out to be his final live performance - bringing the crowd to it's feet with "We Will Rock You"

  • Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and Robert Plant reuniting for the first time on stage since the death of John Bonham.

  • Sting coming out on stage during the performance by Dire Straight to sing back-up on "Money For Nothing" (which had not been released as a single yet) - prompting the clueless MTV VJ's to completely miss the anti-corporate irony of Sting repeatedly singing "I want my MTV".

  • Phil Collins performing in London, then jumping on the Concord to perform again in Philadelphia on the same day.

  • Mick Jagger grabbing Tina Turners ASS on Live Network TV during the climatic final numbers and taking things to an entirely new level of specticle and showmanship, long before the FCC would threaten to shut down a network for such a thing.

    It was a momentous event, a glorious one - where dozens of moments crystalized in time. Many of which we will never again see the likes of.

    Kanye West doing his Jesus Walk - Getty ImagesIn many ways last weeks Live 8 show was far more grand, far more ambitious - it asked for sometime far more precious than just money, it asked people for their attention and commitment - and because of that it may ultimately be seen as far less of a success than it's predecessor. However, it is because of that broader focus that Live-8 and the ideals that it repesents are far more important than the extended multi-nation Telethon that Live Aid was.

    Unlike 20 years ago when U2 performed "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and brought the crowd to tears, last week although many artists spoke elequently on the subject of getting involved in international humanitarian issues - few of them actually had song material that reflected the weight of the issues.

    <>It was clear that even the former members of siminal issues band Rage Against the Machine, have now been reduced to little more than just another pop-rock band with their new project Audioslave. A great pop-rock band to be sure, but nothing like the galvanizing force that RATM was.

    Linkin Park w/Jay Z - Getty ImagesWhere was the modern Bruce Springsteen or Jackson Brown? For that matter, where was the actual Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Brown (both of whom were at this years Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame induction). We did have the modern U2, who opened the concert, but they have long-ago become a wan and faded xerox immitation of the band they used to be when it comes to issues that address the world stage.

    30 years ago Stevie Wonder wrote passionately of a "Past-Time Paradise", yet his performanc at Live-8 was almost completely devoid of anything but a rote renditions of his hits, with the cynical addition of modern-day white-soul hipster guest stars such as Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20 (who practically embarrised himself) and Adam Levine of Maroon 5 (who nearly outdid Stevie). Where was the relevance between the subject matter and passion of the material and the subject matter of the event?

    The truth is that few modern artists, with the exception of some heavy metal bands and the ever outspoken Eminem, actually have anything worthwhile to SAY in their material. And is this really all that surpising, that they wouldn't want their careers to be derailed by being Dixie-Chicked for saying the "wrong" thing at the wrong time?

    Madonna with Birhan Woldu of Ethiopia- Getty ImagesIn fairness, I have to mention the powerful presentations by both Kanye West performing "Jesus Walks" and Green Day doing both "American Idiot" and 'We are the Champions" (echoing back to Queens own earth shaking Live Aid performance). Both of these artist "Get it", and have already been getting it for some time. Other key moments were the appearance of relatives of Bob Marley on stage with Black Eyed-Peas, the reuniting of Roger Waters with the other members of Pink Floyd, Madonna onstage with one young Ethiopian woman, Birhan Woldu, who life was saved by funds provided by the original Live Aid, Sting performing "Driven to Tears" (Everytime someone innocent dies, all we can do is offer them some page in some magazine) and "Every Breath You Take" (we'll be watching you - in the G-8) , and angst-rockers Linkin Park onstage with Hip-Hop Mobul Jay-Z -- but other than these few moments, -- almost all of which were coincidental and circumstantial in relation to the larger issues -- the entire event was mostly a photo-op, not the true unifying catalyst for progressive activism that it needed to be. It's a chance for, TimeWarner and Sony to sell CD's - not change the world.

    Alicia Keys in Philadelphia Live 8  - Getty ImagesIf Live-8 accomplished anything, it clearly displayed just how disconnected from reality and relevance modern music has become. The entire 90's revolution of alternative music and grunge was driven by the connection between the people making the music and the people in the audience and their shared fears, pain and hopes.

    As we enter the 21st Century, the core issues of humanity behind Live-8 show that it's even more important than ever that we recapture that type of synergy between issue and action, thought and deed. Do we just talk it - or will we take the difficult road and Walk it?

    Perhaps I've grown a bit cynical about our current times and have romanticized the our halcyon past a bit. Perhaps, but I still believe that we need new protest artists with new protest songs that have the courage to address these issues. It was the music of the 60's that gave the Peace and anti-War movement of that time a soundtrack - a common theme to rally behind.

    We may have grown to believe that music today is merely a disposable commodity, no more important than picking out our latest personalize ring-tone -- but it does matter.

    It matters a great deal.


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