Paul McCartney, U2, Madonna, Sting, Pink Floyd - Live 8
Tim Miller 03/07/2005
It was all on TV anyway, but Live8 - the biggest 'something' ever seen; concert, charity event, collection of massive artists in one day, whatever - will most probably be THE event of the next two or three decades where being able to say 'I was there' carries the most prestige. And I was.
A total of 26 artists, 9 hours of live music, a crowd of 150,000 - and that's just the London Hyde Park gig. Here, from an eyewitness account, is Live8 - Live.
At 2pm on the dot, the announcer, sounding rather like the invisible voice of the Lottery, opens Live8 and Paul McCartney enters with (this is just SO rock n roll) U2 as his backing band. Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band begins the day's music, though the initial sound and overall rendition is lost to the still-screaming 150,000 strong crowd. It's certainly not an explosive start and the real beginning happens as U2 kick into Beautiful Day. In terms of the weather it really wasn't, but Bono urges upon the crowd the beautiful message behind this whole day. Super-hit Vertigo is followed by a medley of One Love/Unchained Melody, and Live8 is well and truly off.
Coldplay were up next, with Chris Martin on dazzling vocal form for Fix You and surprisingly restrained with his politics, before Richard Ashcroft joined them onstage to provide vocals for a gorgeous version of his ex-band The Verve's Bittersweet Symphony. He wasn't the only gay on stage, but Elton John lifted the melancholic mood with Saturday Night's Alright For Dancing and The Bitch is Back, before Pete Doherty, with his distinctive voice and onstage character, sauntered on to join Elton for a unique rendition of Children of the Revolution.
Dido, angelic in looks and heavenly voice, melted hearts with her set, including playing Nenneh Cherry's part in the duet of 7 Seconds with the supremely gifted Youssou N'Dour. Following Dido, poles apart, were the Stereophonics: who basically rocked with gravel-throated Kelly Jones leading the crowd through hits Dakota and Bartender and the Thief. REM were next, with Michael Stipe looking like…well, God knows. But that hardly mattered as they pulled out amazing versions of Man on the Moon, Imitation of Life, and a simply beautiful Everybody Hurts, which swelled epically from 150,001 voices. Ms Dynamite, the token British black music artist (let's be honest here), wasn't particularly great with her indifferent brand of urban, but astonishingly made one of the most intelligent comments of the day.
Keane's astronomical rise from Reading Festival Carling Tent also-rans in 2003 to, well, Live8 act in 2005 was highlighted here with favourites Somewhere Only We Know and Bedshaped, both sounding superb with the crowd singing every word. Then came possibly the biggest eyebrow raiser of the day: Travis were brilliant. Easily the most unassuming act on the bill, they were also one of the very best; after great versions of Sing and Side, breaking into the BeeGee's Stayin' Alive, complete with perfect falsetto from Fran Healy, was a stroke of genius. Given a rapturous reception. The main man himself, Bob Geldof graced the stage with some music next, playing (what else?) I Don't Like Mondays. He was more effective, though, at other points during the day, with his rallying speeches.
At this point, with Annie Lennox and UB40 to come, it was time for a toilet and food break. An emotional Lennox led the crowd through Why, and Sweet Dreams are Made of This, and UB40 played Red Wine amongst other songs that sounded exactly the same. Unfortunately, the distraction of nature didn't last enough to miss Snoop Dogg's smug set, which contained more “motherfuckers” than it did notable songs. Despite this, the crowd were more than generous with its send off. Razorlight and the insufferable Johnny Borrell followed with a change of mood but just as big an ego. Opened with Somewhere Else, by miles the best song they have, but what they brought to the day is questionable. Undoubtedly a passionate 15 minutes, but this hides the fact that Razorlight's songs just aren't really any good.
Names in music don't get much bigger than the Queen of pop, Madonna, who was up next and on immense form with her onstage charisma and immaculate delivery of hits Music, Ray of Light and Like A Prayer; a true high point of the day's events. Snow Patrol were another unassuming act, but played Final Straw and then Run, which joined Everybody Hurts and Angels as the arms-from-side-to-side choruses of the day. The Killers were thankfully only on duty to perform one song, presumably choosing All These Things That I've Done for the appropriate line 'I've got soul but I'm not a soldier'. Pretty pointless without their genuine hits. A young lady perhaps on the way to stealing Madge's crown, Joss Stone was all smiles and enthusiasm, and just an incredible voice. The occasion perhaps didn't suit her, but she gave a flawless performance nonetheless. Scissor Sisters were on hand to deliver the most fun performance of the day, playing Laura and Take Your Mama to the delight of the crowd, and certainly did not cynically use the opportunity to market a new song, Everybody Wants the Same Thing. The sun, incidentally, shone for the only time all day during Scissor Sisters' set.
Then came Velvet Revolver. Why they came next, or were even on the bill at all, isn't clear, but they have Slash as a guitarist so they must be good! Completely out of place and out of their depth, went on too long, gave lacklustre performances of MOR rock songs, one sounding suspiciously like Sweet Child O' Mine, and were undeserving of being followed by someone so legendary as Sting. Another high point of the day, Sting was utterly fantastic dishing out stunning live versions of Message in a Bottle and, of course, Every Breath You Take. He must have wondered, however, who had cursed him to be sandwiched in the line up between Velvet Revolver and the ludicrous Mariah Carey. Introducing her African Children's Choir (“they're all orphans” she pointed out) in between asking, twice, for water, and taking the opportunity to play new material rather than hits, Carey was the only act of the entire day to get booed as she left the stage.
Despite this blip, nothing could hold back the next artist on stage, James Bond himself - Robbie Williams. Acting the fool, and arrogantly leading the way through Let Me Entertain You, and Feel (er, great choice Robbie?), he then went on to belt out Angels, with the support of the entire crowd. Quite simply the throw-back-your-head-and-yell-it-out-for-all-it's-worth moment of Live8. Having nicely warmed up the crowd again into good humour, it was time for the old guard to close the show. The Who were gloriously loud, angry and well-oiled with Who Are You and Won't Get Fooled Again, but seemed somehow to overstay their welcome. But the biggest talking point of the show, at least musically, was still to come. After all these years, the Pink Floyd reunion happened, and it happened at Live8. Playing Money, Wish You Were Here and Comfortably Numb, any Floyd fan who's any Floyd fan will have been watching. Elegant and ethereal, Pink Floyd were magnificent.
Sadly, this reviewer had to make the executive decision to miss Paul McCartney's finale, having seen him in concert proper anyway, and needing to catch a train that left at 11:32pm (what happened to 9:30 finish, Bob?), and then cursed his luck upon finding out that McCartney had revisited the dynamite heavy metal of Helter Skelter. Typically, McCartney conducted a version (of sorts) of Hey Jude to playout, and the concert was over. A day, and night, of the highest quality music around, from the biggest names in music past and present, and all for one of the most important causes humanity has ever challenged. All over the globe, music made the people come together, and maybe, just maybe, Live8 might turn out to be a landmark moment in the history of the world.