It's hard to get perspective less than a Jack Bauer away from something, but I can remember walking away from Live Aid knowing. I don't leave Live 8 behind with the same feeling, though I'm a far different person. I'm not young enough anymore to believe that the world is going to change the day after a rock concert and somehow, I feel like that's the difference. Bob Geldof, Bono, and the rest know that they can't hold a party and buy out the problem, no matter how great the party is.
Some in the reality based community are rejecting Live 8 and efforts like it as pie in the sky or worse, faith-based. Just before Madonna's set (surprisingly good - more on that later), Geldof walked out and showed part of the video that started him on his life's mission. Then he brought out one of the children seen in the video, now a quite pretty young woman. She looked a bit lost on stage with Madonna, but hey, she was one thing - alive. The image was phenomenally powerful.
The power of Live 8 will come in a week, when the collective focus of a generation will either affect or not affect the course of the eight most powerful leaders in the world. They have a chance to embrace hope or engender more cynicism than they can survive. Ronald Reagan knew enough to stay the hell out of the sights when a billion idealistic teenagers set themselves on a near-impossible quest twenty years ago.
Besides those that Geldof calls "the culture of defeat", many are saying that Live 8 was just a distraction from the real point. I think the point was driven home when one of MTV's vacuous hosts asked some frat boy what he learned. In his best Belushi voice, he responded "We gotta save AFRICA!" Maybe I'm wrong, but he probably can't find Africa on a map, can't spell G8, and has the attention span of an iPod Shuffle, but Geldof's party gave him one sentence that will likely come up time and again in his political consciousness: "I was at Live 8." Believe me, there are times when I've struggled for issues and thought back to another hot day in Philly and said "African relief" was important to me.
So how was the party? Was it the greatest rock concert in history? It can say yes with a straight face. I'll be the first to admit I can't ever imagine that Live Aid could be topped. Sequels are seldom better than the original. What Live 8 had was more artists, something of a quantity over quality. To me, there was no U2 moment, despite U2 playing. At Live Aid, U2 came out and just blew away the crowd, leaving everyone wondering who these guys were. Live 8 had no surprising reunions or secret guests. Pink Floyd was good, but exactly as we expected. Once the shock of seeing Roger Waters and David Gilmour on stage wore off, it was more nostalgia than rebirth. Keane was better than expected, Madonna looked and sounded great, even pointing at Geldof as she took off her jacket (a clear reference to her Live Aid performance), and The Who was the best of their generation. Green Day came the closest to a "breakout" performance, guttily taking on the Queen classic "We Are The Champions." Coldplay was a bit disappointing, not taking the opportunity to seize the crown of best band in the world, even for a moment.
The worst part was the coverage. I hear that the BBC and Canal-1 both went commercial free and locked in on one site, pipping in for highlights from others. MTV was simply old-fashioned, focusing on telling people how great the event was rather than letting us experience it. Focus groups told them that there would be a loss of attention after ten minutes and that Americans couldn't handle dead air. XM and AOL did much better, giving control to the user and a multi-channel, one-click experience that the Internet age understands.
I'm curious how the Edinboro concert will go and I'm curious of how the G8 will react, if at all. Live 8 didn't change the world yesterday, but I like living in the kind of world where it's worth trying.