Maybe it lacked the excitement and portentousness of Live Aid. Maybe it was mainly old men up on the stage. There certainly weren’t high points as breathtaking as in 1985 – nothing even came close to touching Queen, whatever Robbie Williams hoped to prove by singing We Will Rock You (though if I ever need a second rate host for kareoke I know where to find one).
But I think it was, on the whole, a Good Thing. For a start, anyone who saw Sting, or Madonna singing Like a Prayer, or the improbable rendition of Comfortably Numb near the climax of the concert, will know that it wasn’t entirely bereft of musical brilliance. Also, as an event to raise the awareness of the issues around G8 it must surely count as an unqualified success. Cynics who claim that Bob Geldoff has a naive understanding of said issues are simply wrong – sure, there are complexities in the details of world debt and trade laws that he doesn’t understand, which indeed I don’t understand, and which I bet Tony Blair doesn’t understand either. But on a general level, Geldoff’s political awareness is higher than most people’s – you might disagree with his conclusions, but don’t think he hasn’t done his research.
If you do feel the need to be cynical, how about this: it matters not one whit how much awareness of Africa’s poverty and the possible solutions are raised, but if the most powerful man in the world is a narrow-minded fool who is only interested in the welfare of his own country then many of the problems will not be addressed. In recent interviews George W. Bush has made it very clear that he believes America is already giving more than enough aid to Africa, and that he has no interest in changing trade laws. And judging by previous experiences, Bush is not the type to have his mind changed by minor political leaders like Tony Blair, large-scale rallies and lefty celebrities.
A positive outcome of the whole Make Poverty History campaign is that aid will undoubtedly be increased by many of the G8 leaders and much of the debt will certainly be dropped. Unfortunately, in the long-term it is the trade laws which will continue to have the most crippling effect on Africa. With George W. Bush resolutely insisting it is not in America’s interest to do anything about them, it seems possible that we’ll be having yet another rock concert in twenty years to try and help the same people. Imagine how old and wrinkled Paul McCartney will be then – it scarcely bears thinking about.
Though I didn’t personally stay up for the rousing finale to Live 8 – Hey Jude is one of my least favourite songs of all time, and nothing was ever going to top Pink Floyd.