Live 8 Recap: London's Hyde Park

An estimated worldwide audience of 2 billion people tuned in to Bob Geldof's Live 8 spectacular yesterday (July 2) to witness rock'n'roll make history. Geldof, the Irish musician who masterminded Band

An estimated worldwide audience of 2 billion people tuned in to Bob Geldof's Live 8 spectacular yesterday (July 2) to witness rock'n'roll make history. Geldof, the Irish musician who masterminded Band Aid and the Live Aid concerts 20 years ago, conceived the multi-concert event as a political exercise to influence world leaders into making Africa a priority.

In his corner, Geldof gathered arguably the greatest-ever collection of artists performing at 10 concerts across four continents, each running simultaneously and interlinked through satellite and the Internet.

The concerts' message was clear and ubiquitous -- "Make Poverty History" -- but where 1985's Live Aid raised funds for the needy in Africa, spectators were yesterday urged simply to show solidarity. "Mahatma Gandhi freed a continent, Martin Luther King freed a people, Nelson Mandela freed a country. It does work. They will listen," Geldof said at London's Hyde Park.

By the close of festivities, the concerts had generated text messages from more than 26 million people worldwide -- a world record for a single event, according to organizers.

Hyde Park, the cornerstone of the music program, played host to a stellar line-up which featured performances from Paul McCartney, U2, Madonna, Elton John, the Who, Robbie Williams and the reunited Pink Floyd.

McCartney and U2, who each performed at the 1985 show at Wembley Stadium, opened the London leg with a take on the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." Geldof later described the collaboration as "one of the greatest rock'n'roll moments of all time."

The occasion was marked by an extraordinary digital download initiative. Universal Music rush-released the track to 200 online music stores across 30 markets. The first purchase was made at 2:46 P.M. (about 45 minutes after it was performed), according to a label spokesperson.

One echo of the original Live Aid concert provided one of the day's most poignant moments, when Geldof appeared apologetically explaining that he could not resist the opportunity to perform on the Hyde Park stage. His reprise of the Boomtown Rats' "I Don't Like Mondays" was a moving reminder, for those who had also been at Wembley 20 years ago, of the community spirit that Geldof had first engendered. This reached a peak on the lyric "And the lesson today is how to die," at which point Geldof stopped mid-song, just as in 1985, to rousing cheering.

One of the most moving scenes came when Geldof introduced on stage Birhan Woldu, a 24-year-old agricultural student who was featured in the video footage of starving African children 20 years earlier. The original video, set to the Cars' "Drive," had a powerful impact when played during Live Aid. At the time of the video, she was said to have been close to death, but was saved by the aid that flooded into Ethiopia, and was held up by Geldof as a symbol of what the people-power of the concerts can achieve.

"Don't let anyone tell you this doesn't work," he told the audience. "This stuff works. You work." Woldu stayed on stage during the opening part of Madonna's performance, with photographs of their embrace featuring widely in the U.K.'s Sunday newspapers.

As the show began to run further overtime, some sets were cut in length. The Who had earlier been scheduled to perform four numbers, but played only "Who Are You" and "Won't Get Fooled Again," omitting the planned "Baba O'Riley" and "Behind Blue Eyes." The program was ultimately completed almost two hours behind schedule.

Geldof and his colleagues' attention is now focused on Edinburgh, and the July 2-8 G8 summit of world leaders. The Scottish capital will host a "final push" concert July 6, as a last-ditch attempt to appeal for African economic relief.


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