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Live 8 DVD Special Pt II

DVD Boxset

by Jacob McDaniel

Click here to read the latest installment in this special review series.

Twenty years after Live Aid was held to benefit victims of the Ethiopian famine, Live 8 was organized to persuade leaders of G8 to "make poverty history" - primarily by increasing financial aid and AIDS medication, while canceling debts to some of the poorest African countries. Past global concerts have been used as a fund-raising tool for a cause. Live 8, however, claims that they only want your voice. Perhaps I'm naïve, but I fail to see how collecting donations would have tarnished their agenda. At any rate, an estimated three billion people watched some part of the concert series, making it one of the biggest music events of all time.

Disc One:

Disc one opens with a bang, as Paul McCartney plays "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" with the help of U2 backing him. Although Paul is dressed fairly conservatively, someone decided that his horn section should don the garb of the Beatles during that 1967 time period. I'm hoping that they enjoyed wearing their flamboyant outfits as much as I enjoyed snickering at them.

Next on the bill is U2 playing a three song set ("Beautiful Day", "Vertigo", "One"). I've never cared for U2's music, and I've cared even less for Bono's preachy humanitarian rants. However, U2 was made to play events like this, and Bono's piercing voice seemed to be one of the few that was there to make a difference. U2's set climaxed and closed with "One", which was executed perfectly.

One of the few other highlights from disc one came when Richard Ashcroft joined Coldplay on stage for a rendition of "Bittersweet Symphony". Ashcroft's vocals were in top shape, and Martin's keyboard work meshed nicely with the backing orchestration.

Great performances: U2, Coldplay (w/ Richard Ashcroft), Green Day
Good performances: Muse, Black Eyed Peas
Poor performances: Bon Jovi, Snoop Dogg, Duran Duran, Elton John

Disc Two: 

Disc two opens with Beyonce-led Destiny's Child pumping through "Survivor", which proved to be one of the more energetic performances in this compilation. Kanye West also delivers with "Diamonds from Sierra Leone", in which his confident aura shows in his stage presence.

Disc two also contains one of the most sickening performances, an act that reveals the main problem of Live 8: Are the artists performing in order to rid Africa of poverty, or are they performing for access to billions of potential fans? Will Smith is carried onto the stage on a throne, as the loudspeakers repeat the phrase, "The champ is here". Smith then says, "There's been a whole lot of superstars on this here stage tonight. But I want you to know one thing: Philly is my house." It's a shame that such ego-stroking occurs during Live 8, and it's even more of a shame that the artist most guilty has perhaps the most suspect credentials. Perhaps the most appalling part of the situation is that Will Smith is given three songs on disc two, while Kanye West, Brian Wilson, and Snow Patrol are all given only one.

Great performances: Kanye West, Brian Wilson
Good performances: Destiny's Child, Snow Patrol, Alicia Keys, Sting
Poor performances: Will Smith, Toby Keith

Disc Three:

Disc three is a real mystery. For some reason, the organizers paired some of the worst performances with the best, with the dichotomy split nearly down the middle. If it wasn't for Neil Young, who (like many great artists who played at Live 8) was only allocated one song, the first half would be insufferable. Keith Urban's performance is a yawner, Placebo's vocals are obnoxious, and Robbie Williams foolishly attempts to cover "We Will Rock You", with his theatrics toying the line between distracting and outright silly.

The Who are able to turn the tide with strong performances of "Who Are You" and "Won't Get Fooled Again". The only real complaint is the exclusion of "Baba O'Riley". The next performance is the absolute highlight of Live 8 - the reunion of Pink Floyd. Roger Waters and David Gilmour perform as though they were never separated, with the pinnacle occurring during the performance of "Wish You Were Here", which was dedicated to Syd Barrett. 

Although Pink Floyd would have put a great end to the third disc of performances, Paul McCartney takes the stage to cap off the night. Although Paul mainly plays predictable material, "Helter Skelter" was thrown into the mix, adding adrenalin to the set. Even though McCartney's voice never seems to age or tire, he turned the stage over to the other musicians and allowed the crowd to help him finish the "nah nah" ending of "Hey Jude".

Great performances: Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney, The Who
Good performances: Neil Young
Poor performances: Rob Thomas, Keith Urban, Placebo, Robbie Williams

Disc Four: 

The fourth disc suffers from the overall length of the DVD package. The nighttime performances by The Who, Pink Floyd, and Paul McCartney at the end of the third disc seemed like the logical conclusion to this set of music. Although the fourth disc doesn't showcase any terrible acts, it doesn't showcase anyone all that impressive, either. One mediocre performance follows another, and you can't help but wonder when the 10+ hours of music will come to an end.

As though there weren't enough performances already, this disc contains a set of extras including a film by The Who and a Pink Floyd rehearsal.

Great performances: Bjork
Good performances: Shakira, Audioslave, The Proclaimers
Poor performances: Good Charlotte, Tim McGraw

In conclusion, the goals of Live 8 are admirable and impressive (both in regards to humanitarian progress and wrangling so many "A list" artists). The length of the set is impressive, yet overwhelming. Unless you are easily pleased, you'll give your remote a workout searching for performances that are worth watching.

If you missed Kevin's review of the special Africa Calling Live 8 at Eden DVD click here!

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