Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., Nov. 26, 2004
Held July 13, 1985, in London and Philadelphia, Live Aid was an extraordinary triumph of technology and goodwill. Beamed to 98% of the world's televisions, the concert raised $80 million in one day for African famine relief. Phil Collins became the first artist to perform on two continents in one day (the real reason why Concorde was retired), and organizer Bob Geldof was knighted for his efforts. To expedite legal matters, no provisions were made for future use of the Live Aid broadcast a quaint notion by today's standards. Culled from incomplete BBC and MTV archival footage, this 4-DVD set is a choppy yet charming souvenir of Eighties pop life. Performing in rapid-fire succession with piecemeal festival sound, few acts delivered career-defining sets at Live Aid. Nevertheless, there are some amazing moments. The Boomtown Rats' impassioned reading of "I Don't Like Mondays" showcased Geldof's musical accomplishments, while Queen's set found Freddie Mercury wearing Wembley Stadium like a glove. U2's elongated "Bad," culminating in Bono climbing down from the stage to embrace fans with a filial intensity, may have been the moment when the world at large acknowledged the group's significance. Stateside, Mick Jagger and Tina Turner's duet on "State of Shock" resonated with a white-hot prurience that makes Janet Jackson's Super Sunday boob flop seem tame. Evidence of Madonna's not-quite-solidified icon status can be found in her silly romp backing the Thompson Twins on a cover of "Revolution." RUN-DMC was Live Aid's sole rap act, and their set wasn't even broadcast, so it's nice to see them blow up "King of Rock" in the bonus footage. Teddy Pendergrass' emotional performance with Ashford & Simpson, his first since being paralyzed in a car accident, is another highlight. There's plenty of rice and potatoes from the likes of REO Speedwagon, Status Quo, and Kenny Loggins, but leaving those guys out would've resulted in an inaccurate depiction of the era. Besides, as the BBC report on the famine that spurred Geldof to arms still attests, it was all for the very best of causes.