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Review: Geldof's Live 8 a rock triumph

By CNN's Graham Jones




Live 8
G8 Summit
Economic Organizations
United Nations

LONDON, England (CNN) -- "Some of you were at Live Aid 20 years ago. Some of you weren't even born," organizer Bob Geldof told 150,000 of us assembled for the Live 8 showpiece in London's Hyde Park.

Well those of us fortunate enough to be at both concerts counted ourselves lucky to be born at the right time indeed as we witnessed a second Geldof triumph.

The one-time Boomtown Rats front man had promised to bring us the biggest and best ever global musical event, and yet again he delivered.

We know now it is up to the politicians whether they heed Geldof's demands for debt forgiveness, trade concessions and $25 billion in aid for Africa.

Live 8 2005 was a second historic day of music, energy and compassion few are likely to forget.

"Job done, Sir Bob!" was the headline in Britain's Daily Express. "Sens8tional" said The People. "Is that loud enough?" asked the Sunday Times.

This time, there were more concerts than 20 years ago -- in all 10, on four continents. There were more people -- in London, 150,000 instead of 72,000 at Wembley in 1985. More than a million in all were at the 10 events. More than 2 billion were estimated to have joined us on TV.

So what else was different from 20 years ago? In 2005 the stars' acts were more polished and the stage set and graphics a triumph -- though perhaps the revolving stage of '85 would have stopped them overrunning by two-and-a-half hours.

If Madonna -- then in a trouser suit and sporting brown hair -- had sounded a bit raw in Philadelphia in 1985, this time in Hyde Park she was vibrant -- a real star of the show.

I supposed 20 years to practice is not bad.

Sting had been criticized on one Web site for appearing "disinterested" in 1985 at Wembley. This time "Message in a bottle" was a winner. You could almost feel a stung Sting wanting, after 20 years hurt, to make the critic eat his words.

Robbie Williams -- probably the best performer of the night -- wowed the audience, producing a tribute to the star of the 1985 show, Queen's Freddie Mercury who later died of AIDS.

He opened with a Queen song: "We will rock you." And went on to have the whole 150,000 of us singing, waving arms in the air.

Snoop Dogg was another who got the entire audience singing and dancing along to his hit "Who am I? (What's my name)."

Mariah Carey, REM, Annie Lennox, Keane, Stereophonics and the Scissor Sisters were among the other high notes. Razorlight's Johnny Borrell jumped off the stage and ripped off his shirt -- lessons surely learned from Bono's career-boosting jump-in-the-audience moment in 1985.

But references to Live Aid and 20 years ago were all around.

Paul McCartney and U2's Bono opened the concert with the first line of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" which says: "It was 20 years ago today..."

In the most poignant moment of the night, Geldof -- how polished a speaker he now is compared with the rough old "give us your f****** money" days -- introduced a young survivor of the Ethiopian famine of all those years ago.

Birhan Woldu had been in the moving Canadian video of starving children shown in Wembley and Philadelphia in 1985 to "Drive"by the Cars.

She had been given 10 minutes to live then, said Geldof. Now she was "a beautiful woman" he said -- a healthy 24-year-old student with everything to live for.

"Don't let them tell us it doesn't work," a defiant Geldof said in the best rebuke he could ever give to critics of his famine relief efforts.

Then in a memorable moment, Madonna grabbed Birhan and engaged her in a dance.

The tears shed over the video flowed once more.

"Africa thanks you very much" she told Geldof's world army of supporters through an interpreter.

Shortly afterwards the heavens seemed to make their own statement. The sky, which had been heavily gray and overcast all day, suddenly turning at sunset to a shimmering dark blue.

Geldof's serious message to the G8 leaders to act now on Africa was hammered home with giant graphics carrying messages like "8 men in one room can change the world" and "this is the week when poverty can be beaten."

On stage, Bill Gates, Kofi Annan -- and in Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela --were there to give heavyweight backing -- though there was a little light relief too with vignettes by comedians Ricky Gervais, Peter "Road to Amarillo" Kay and Lenny Henry.

Henry confided in the crowd one reason for there being so many stars on show. "You know why we're all here? We're all scared of Bob Geldof!" ("And poverty too.")

The political theme of the concerts was reinforced during Sting's "Every Breath You Take" which included the line for the G8 leaders: "We'll be watching you."

Similarly in a brilliant set by The Who. As they played "Who are you?" the faces of the eight G8 leaders flashed on the giant screens -- in a chilling gray caused by fast-interchanging black and white images.

Britons are fond of using the phrase "pigs may fly" for describing the impossible -- and suddenly pigs were flying, at least on video.

We knew this was the long awaited reunion of Pink Floyd after -- er, 24 years. So that's why they didn't play last time. Clouds of smoke billowed from the stage. We were witnessing another page of rock history, to be sure.

In front of us, a sea of cameras were pointed to capture the moment. The flashes went off not quite all at once, like a giant strobe light.

By now the London concert had staggered into that amazing two-and-a-half hours behind schedule, but like Live Aid in 1985, no one wanted to go home.

When we did, just as 20 years ago, it was time to turn on the TV and see the finale of the concert at Philadelphia, this time featuring Steve Wonder. The end of a brilliant day.

Thank you, Sir Bob. We were listening. We must wait and see now whether the G8 leaders will have done a little listening too.

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