Live Aid - 20 Years Ago Today Review

Rumour has it that the Live 8 concert later today will begin with Paul McCartney suited a la Sgt. Pepper and singing the title track from his old band's 1967 album, "It was twenty years ago today..." You can't help but think that maybe Bob Geldof is making up for the minutes in which McCartney sang Let It Be to no one but himself at the Live Aid concert back in 1984.

This DVD is a cut-price taster of the full, four-disc Live Aid boxset, which was released in November 2004. That boxset is now available online around the £30 mark whereas this, which only last 52 minutes and carries no extras is available from the same sources for £7.50, against a RRP of £10. The full setlist is shown below:

Given that list of acts and songs and a running time of only 52 minutes, it's no surprise to see that various acts fare better in terms of screen time than others. Whilst Status Quo get to perform Rockin' All Over The World in full, Sade, thankfully, gets no more than a verse of Your Love Is King out before it's the turn of Paul Young and Alison Moyet, who get only seconds to impress before Sting appears. Not even Midge Ure gets a minute longer than is necessary despite his involvement in Live Aid, which could well be more to do with the chilly New Romanticism of Ultravox's Vienna and his grey trench coat sounding and looking completely out of place in the summer sunshine of July 13 1985 than the lack of space on this DVD.

But such was the problem with Live Aid and it is easy to look back and sneer at the quality of acts and the songs they chose to play. In particular, who could forget Adam Ant's ill-advised decision to play Vive Le Rock when all of Wembley and a billion viewers at home really wanted to hear Stand And Deliver? Sting's choice of Roxanne would have been a sound one had he kept to the original arrangement but in deciding to slow it down and turn it into a dreary jazz snooze, the audience of thousands look ready to doze off in what could have been the world's largest bed-in. Most famously of all, The Rolling Stones could not forgive and forget for just one day, leading to Mick Jagger vamping it up with Tina Turner whilst Ron Wood and Keith Richards try to figure out what it is that Bob Dylan's playing. Apparently that trio did rehearse but when Dylan, before walking out onstage, told them they were changing the setlist and were now opening with The Ballad Of Hollis Brown, Ron Wood knew they were in trouble. "Ain't Hollis Brown a cough medicine?", he asked.

Of course, given how hastily Live Aid was arranged, it's frankly astonishing that it happened at all and as I'm old enough to remember watching and listening to it at the time of the original broadcast, it was easy to look past a Nik Kershaw or a Style Council when you knew there was a U2, David Bowie or Queen on the way and, generally, the concert was of a high quality. London, though, does fare better than Philadelphia, with many of the acts appearing at the JFK stadium sounding as though someone had left a radio on at one end of an enormous amphitheatre, with Crosby, Stills & Nash, Neil Young, Run DMC, The Pretenders and, again, Bob Dylan, all looking entirely wrong for such a huge concert. Wembley, however, does occasionally rock and no less so than when Status Quo, The Who and Queen appear.

However, this isn't the full four-disc set and, at 52 minutes, only gives the viewer the barest sense of what Live Aid was like. Clearly, there is room in the market for this DVD given that many potential buyers of the full set would have been put off by the £30 cost of the box but it's difficult to get away from the feeling when watching this DVD, that it's anything more than the kind of sampler DVD that would be given away for free on the front of a newspaper or magazine. After all, a DVD can hold three hours of video so it is not as though the makers of this DVD could not have compiled a better 'best of' set with full songs from the better acts on the day, intercut with some of the upstairs footage, such as Bob Geldof telling David Hepworth to, "Fuck the address", in his bid to get the viewers to start calling in with donations. It is also a shame that the makers of this DVD did not include either of the BBC productions shown on 18 June 2005, as both Live Aid: Against All Odds and Live Aid: Rockin' All Over The World would have made worthwhile extras.

So, enjoy the Live 8 concert later today - particularly with Pink Floyd doing in 2005 what The Rolling Stones could not in 1985 - and hope that it achieves its objectives in having an impact on the G8 conference. Remember also Live Aid but that, if you are in the mood for nostalgia, only the four-disc set and not this will satisfy.

Presented in the same full-frame image that it would have been seen in back in 1985, the image is as good as you would expect it to be. Whilst the transfer cannot be faulted, the original picture quality is variable and, as with the choice of acts, Wembley fares better than Philadelphia thanks, no doubt, to the BBC.

The soundtrack has also been remixed into Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 and whilst there is use of the rear speakers, the 2.0 Stereo mix is the best of the three available.

There are no special features included on this release.

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