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WEA MUSIC

MOVIE INFO

Crated By:
Bob Geldof
Director:
Various
Cast:
Various

Tagline:
July 13, 1985. The day the music changed the world.

Synopsis:
Any music fan can tell you exactly where they were on July 13th, 1985. There had never been a concert event of such magnitude-the biggest names in music performing in a concert broadcast live from 2 continents to an audience of over 1.5 billion. It is estimated that 85% of the world's television sets were tuned in to Live Aid that day. Now, for the first time on home video, you can own the concert that was arguably the biggest rock event in history-featuring David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Madonna, Paul McCartney, Sting, The Who, U2, Neil Young, and many, many more. Over 10 hours of performances in a premium-packaged 4-DVD set. Royalties will benefit Band Aid Trust, which continues to provide direct hunger relief in Africa.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
English Dolby Stereo
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Portuguese
Japanese
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 600 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 11/16/2004

Bonus:
Disc One
• BBC News Report
• Band Aid Music Video
• USA for Africa Music Video
Disc Four
• INXS from Australia
• BB King from North Sea Jazz Festival
• Ashford & Simpson with Teddy Pendergrass
• Run DMC
• Cliff Richard from London
• Overseas Contributors
• David Bowie and Mick Jagger Music Video
• “Food and Trucks and Rock ‘n’ Roll” Documentary


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

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Live Aid (1985)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 11, 2004)

July 13, 1985 stands as one of the greatest days in rock history. It saw the most star-studded concert event ever, Live Aid, which topped a year or so of unprecedented charity work from the rock community. When Boomtown Rats singer Bob Geldof saw news footage of starvation in Ethopia during the fall of 1984, he decided to do something about it. He created Band Aid, a UK-oriented supergroup whose single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” raised millions for relief work.

Not to be outdone, the Americans responded in the late winter of 1985. Recorded in a session after the American Music Awards, another supergroup called USA for Africa created the Michael Jackson/Lionel Richie penned single “We Are the World”. It wasn’t nearly as good a song as the catchy “Christmas”, but the star-packed recording nonetheless sold millions of copies and did its job. An album called We Are the World followed; it included the single plus unreleased recordings from megastars like Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner and others.

Not content to rest on these recorded laurels, Geldof decided to initiate a massive concert event. Dubbed “Live Aid”, this blossomed into a dual-continent affair. Two huge connected shows took place on the same day. England’s Wembley Stadium hosted one while Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium housed the other. The pair complemented each other, and together, they filled about 16 hours with performances.

Despite the lucrative possibilities, no official releases connected to Live Aid ever appeared - until now. After almost 20 years, we finally have an official release of Live Aid on home video - or much of it, at least. This new 94-song, four-DVD set includes many parts of the two concerts but leaves off almost half of the day’s events. The package presents the songs in the order they appeared during the day. I’ll look at each disc individually to make it easier to digest the whole event.

DVD ONE (two hours, 17 minutes, 30 seconds):

Set list: Status Quo “Rockin’ All Over the World”, “Caroline”; Style Council “Internationalists”, “Walls Come Tumbling Down”; Boomtown Rats “I Don’t Like Mondays”, “Drag Me Down”; Adam Ant Vive Le Rock; Ultravox Dancing With Tears in My Eyes”, “Vienna”; Spandau Ballet Only When You Leave”, “True”; Elvis Costello “All You Need Is Love”; Nik Kershaw “Wouldn’t It Be Good”; Sade “Your Love Is King”; Sting and/or Phil Collins “Roxanne”, “Against All Odds”, “Every Breath You Take”; Howard Jones “Hide & Seek”; Bryan Ferry “Slave to Love”, “Jealous Guy”; Paul Young “Do They Know It’s Christmas?/Come Back and Stay”, “That’s the Way Love Is” (with Alison Moyet), “Every Time You Go Away”; Bryan Adams “Kids Wanna Rock”, “Summer of ‘69”; U2 “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, “Bad”.

Of all the artists who appeared at Live Aid, none enjoyed quite the same “bump” experienced by U2. They went into the show as a big band but it definitely helped catapult them to megastar status. Indeed, although the band maintained a very low public profile between the final show of the Unforgettable Fire tour less than a week before Live Aid and the March 1987 release of The Joshua Tree, their popularity grew enormously. We saw little of them in that span; in addition to Live Aid, they did six June 1986 concerts as part of the Amnesty International “Human Rights Now” tour and a few other minor gigs.

Despite that low-profile, the band somehow turned into arguably the world’s biggest band, and their appearance at Live Aid kick started that. They certainly act like superstars here with a performance that remains vivid and impressive.

Overall, DVD One offers the weakest roster of the four discs, but it presents some good material. Paul Young puts on a surprisingly strong performance as he engages the crowd better than any of the subsequent acts and brings life to some otherwise fairly tepid songs. Boomtown Rats also make the most of their slot with two strong numbers. Style Council was a weak follow-up to the Jam, Paul Weller’s prior band, but “Walls Come Tumbling Down” manages to prosper, probably because it sounds a lot like something from his old group’s later years. And despite a bad piano goof, Phil Collins provides a solid rendition of “Against All Odds”.

I’m a big fan of both Sting and Elvis Costello, but neither of their performances here does much for me. Costello makes a nice statement with a cover of “All You Need Is Love”, but it’s simply not a very good version of the tune. Sting’s stripped-down takes on “Roxanne” and “Breath” also flounder, the latter despite guest vocals from Collins.

As for true duds, Ultravox and Nik Kershaw have aged exceedingly poorly. I don’t know how their synth pop fared back in the Eighties - neither made a dent here in the States - but they sound terrible now. Kershaw’s feeble, generic pop battles it out with Adam Ant for the worst performance of DVD One; Mr. Ant minces and prances in an exceedingly silly manner.

The remaining acts fall somewhere between the extremes. We find a lot of forgettable - and forgotten - music here, from the bar room rock of Status Quo to the romantic white soul of Spandau Ballet. Since it includes mainly acts from the Wembley show, UK-based performers dominate DVD One, which means we find many who never made a name for themselves across the ocean. Based on what I hear here, there’s a good reason for that.

DVD TWO (2:24:35):

Set list: Beach Boys Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, “Good Vibrations”, “Surfin’ USA”; Dire Straits “Money for Nothing” (with Sting), “Sultans of Swing”; George Thorogood and the Destroyers “Madison Blues”; Queen “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Radio Gaga”, “Hammer to Fall”, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, “We Will Rock You”, “We Are the Champions”; Simple Minds “Ghost Dancing”, “Don’t You Forget About Me”; David Bowie “TVC 15”, “Rebel Rebel”, “Modern Love”, “’Heroes’”; Joan Baez “Amazing Grace”; The Pretenders “Stop Your Sobbing”, “Back on the Chain Gang”, “Middle of the Road”; The Who “Love Reign O’er Me”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”; Kenny Loggins “Footloose”; Elton John “Bennie and the Jets”, “Rocket Man”, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” (with Kiki Dee), “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” (with George Michael).

Just as U2 reigned over DVD One, Queen stand as the kings of the second platter. Obviously this set didn’t influence their later career ala the Irish rockers. Queen were already enormously successful, especially in the UK. That’s part of why their set shines so brightly: in front of the adoring Wembley crowd, they could take control, which they do. In a frustrating move, they cut short the classic “Bohemian Rhapsody” right before it gets to the best part, but the rest of their act soars.

For me, I most looked forward to Bowie’s set. He’s my all-time favorite recording artist, so of course I happily greeted his four songs. Performing with an abruptly assembled band of performers I don’t believe he ever worked with before or after Live Aid, Bowie’s magnetism helps hold together his set. The band’s not particularly good, but Bowie sounds fine and engages the audience well. It’s not great Bowie, but even average Bowie is better than almost anybody else, so these songs stand out as one of the day’s highlights.

The Eighties wasn’t a great decade for Elton John, but he pulls himself together well for his set. It helps that he gets the assistance of two guest stars. Although “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” represents Elton at his fluffy cheesiest, the crowd loves it, and the presence of Kiki Dee makes it a lot of fun. John doesn’t sing on “Sun”, as he lets George Michael take the whole thing. That’s a good choice, as the then-Wham! leader handles the number well. John’s set works nicely.

When we look at the rest of the acts, we see why DVD Two is the best of the four. Great acts dominate. In addition to those mentioned, Dire Straits make the most of their two tracks. Sting reprises his ghostly vocals from “Money for Nothing”, and even though he flubs the lyrics at one point, he helps make this an arresting rendition. The band’s take on “Sultans of Swing” doesn’t know when to end, but some biting guitar work from Mark Knopfler brings this warhorse to life.

George Thorogood’s recycled blues/rock never did much for me, but I can’t deny he put on a good show, and he burned up the stage for his one number. The Pretenders weren’t at their best, but they sound decent as they plow through some fine songs.

Not everything on DVD Two works. This incarnation of the Beach Boys may include Brian Wilson, but they sound like crap and can barely pull together meandering versions of their three tunes. The always-insufferable Mike Love doesn’t help matters. For Simple Minds’ two numbers, singer Jim Kerr works way too hard to play Bono and it fails. Their songs ramble and sound feeble at best. The studio “Don’t You” offers some charms, but here it just blathers on and on with no end.

Technical difficulties marred the Who’s set, at least from the TV side of things. Apparently a fuse blew and the transmission became affected. I don’t know if any of that got to the stage and affected the band’s performance, but Live Aid definitely doesn’t see the Who at their best.

Many of us looked forward to the reunited Who’s show. Back when we took band retirements seriously, this marked their first time together in almost three years, and we saw it as a really special event. “Reign” starts slowly but manages to build pretty well and end competently. Unfortunately, “Fooled” never gets going. Actually, it does okay for its first half, but Daltrey badly messes up midway through the song and the band never recovers. At the end, Townshend tries to kick over the mic stand; he misses and falls on his ass. This symbolizes the whole performance for the Who.

In addition, an abbreviated “Amazing Grace” from Baez feels out of place at this event. Kenny Loggins looks foolish between great acts like the Who and Elton John, and he offers a weak performance of “Footloose”. Nonetheless, most of DVD Two is good, largely due to so many great acts.

DVD THREE (2:16:27):

Set list: Madonna “Holiday”, “Into the Groove”; Freddie Mercury and Brian May “Is This the World We Created?”; Paul McCartney “Let It Be”; Band Aid “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”; Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers “American Girl”, “Refugee”; Black Sabbath featuring Ozzy Osbourne “Paranoid”; REO Speedwagon “Can’t Fight This Feeling”, “Roll With the Changes”; Crosby, Stills and Nash “Teach Your Children”; Judas Priest “Living After Midnight”, “Green Manalishi”; The Cars “Just What I Needed”, “Heartbreak City”; Neil Young “The Needle and the Damage Done”, “God’s Perfect Plan”; Thompson Twins, Steve Stevens, Nile Rodgers and Madonna “Revolution”; Eric Clapton “White Room”, “She’s Waiting”, “Layla”; Phil Collins “In the Air Tonight”; Duran Duran “Union of the Snake”, “Save a Prayer”, “The Reflex”; Patti Labelle “Imagine”, “Forever Young”.

DVD Three sees the set firmly shift from Wembley to JFK. Only “Let it Be”, “Created” and “Christmas” come from the UK, as the remaining tracks all emanate from Philly. That weakens the disc, since so many of the day’s crummier acts appear. REO Speedwagon were already virtual has-beens by 1985; they peaked in 1981 and declined precipitously soon after that. I’m not even sure how they made the bill, and their two tunes don’t make me miss them.

The version of “Revolution” by the Thompson Twins, et al, brings us to three covers of Lennon-penned songs so far. It also stands as probably the most misbegotten performance of the day. I don’t dislike this version because I regard it as blasphemy; I dislike this version because it’s absolutely terrible. An all-style/no-substance synth-based act like the Twins simply don’t have what it takes for a great rocker like “Revolution”, and it’s painful to watch the results.

Patti Labelle competes with Adam Ant for the most pathetic and dismal presentation of the concert. Oh, let’s give that crown of crap to Patti. At least Ant understood the self-parody in his music, whereas the insanely egotistical Labelle clearly believed her own hype. She raises the Lennon tally to four with her bloated and unlistenable take on “Imagine”, and her version of Dylan’s “Forever Young” is equally bad. Labelle doesn’t sing; she shrieks, wails, emotes and bullies her way through song with no goal other than to scream “look at me!!!” Ugh.

Occasionally I read “worst live act” threads on music forums, and inevitably, the Cars appear on these. Their two numbers here aren’t atrocious, but they’re not particularly good either. “Just What I Needed” is a catchy enough tune to work, but “Heartbreak City” is too tepid and flat to overcome the band’s dullness.

I like rocking Neil Young a lot more than soft Neil Young, so his two numbers don’t do much for me. He plays decently but just doesn’t really engage. Actually, “Needle” works nicely, as it delivers a somber message. Although “Plan” has lyrics that work for the day’s theme, the tune’s little more than bland country and flops. His sometime-mates CSN never coalesce with their performance of “Teach Your Children” as they ramble their way through the tune.

I was a newly-minted Duran fan in July of 1985, so I looked forward to their show. They didn’t live up to expectations. Actually, they sound decent, but Simon LeBon seems to take his cues from Adam Ant as he prances and preens in a most obnoxious way. He looks like he bought into his own hype. Based on this, I thought Duran wouldn’t be a good live band when I saw them a couple of years later, but this was incorrect; they can be excellent on stage. But you wouldn’t know it from this passable but inconsistent performance.

Sadly, my favorite moment of the day doesn’t show up since the DVD fails to include Duran’s version of “A View to a Kill”. LeBon’s voice breaks badly during one chorus, which leads to hilarious results. Duran fans and haters alike love this moment, so it’s too bad we don’t get it captured in all its digital glory.

Despite all these indications to the contrary, the picture on DVD Three isn’t entirely murky. Fresh off her first-ever concert tour, Madonna blasts through her two numbers with brightness and vivacity. Clapton presents good versions of “White Room” and “Layla” plus a decent “She’s Waiting”, all of which stand out due to good solos. Tom Petty’s sounded better - and looked better too, as muttonchops are never a good choice - but he and the Heartbreakers whirl through their two tracks pretty well.

Before and even during Live Aid, rumors abounded that the three surviving Beatles would reunite for the show. That didn’t happen, but Paul McCartney came out for the Wembley concert’s penultimate number, “Let It Be”. Technical problems marred the performance, as Macca’s mic didn’t work during the opening verse. Apparently he dubbed that verse not long after the event, and you can slightly tell the difference here, but the two vocals mostly meld well. It’s not a great version, but considering the difficulties, it sounds fine.

Messy but fun and borderline triumphant, “Christmas” ends matters well in London. Most of the day’s performers come out for the finale, which features some of the original single’s vocalists plus some fill-in singers. Geldof takes Boy George’s part, and Bowie substitutes for Paul Young; I have no idea why Young doesn’t do the lines himself, but he may well have left by the end of the show, as I didn’t see him on stage. Others like Sting and Bono reprise their moments from the original. It’s a lively and joyous conclusion to that half of the day.

I never liked heavy metal, so I can’t embrace the performances from Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. That said, both sound fine for what they are. Ozzy looks fat and dopey but sings well, and Priest also deliver their best.

It seems likely that DVD Three will plop into my player the least frequently. A few good moments appear but too many weak acts drag down the overall package.

DVD FOUR (45:50):

Set list: Hall & Oates “Maneater”; Hall & Oates + Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin “Get Ready”, “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”, “My Girl”; Mick Jagger “Just Another Night”, “Miss You”; Mick Jagger and Tina Turner “State of Shock”, “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll”; Bob Dylan, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood “Blowin’ In the Wind”; USA for Africa “We Are the World”.

Just as the Beatles didn’t reunite for Live Aid, the Rolling Stones steadfastly failed to perform together even though a) they were still together, and b) three-fifths of the band played at JFK. I’ve never understood why the Stones refused to perform at Live Aid; perhaps the members related some justification back then, but if so, it escapes me. Band frictions were high in the era, especially since 1985 saw Jagger relentlessly pursue a solo career with his She’s the Boss album. Nonetheless, they could/should have put those tensions aside for the day.

They didn’t, though, and Live Aid briefly gave Jagger hope that he just might be able to transform himself into a solo star. His turn stands as the most memorable of the JFK show, largely due to his incendiary duets with Tina Turner. Jagger uses the Hall & Oates band as backup, and they do well for the most part. The first two tunes sound good, as Jagger seems more involved in the songs than usual. The duet with Tina rambles a bit - I didn’t remember that “State of Shock” was such a weak song - but their chemistry is undeniable, and their moments electrify. Jagged provides one of the JFK show’s best sets.

As for the other two-fifths of the Stones, they didn’t fare so well. Unprepared and out of tune, Dylan, Wood and Richards shamble their way through “Wind”. Mercifully, the DVD eliminates two of Dylan’s numbers. Why’d they sound so bad? According to Wood, this occurred due to a) Dylan’s desire to change things at the last minute, b) out of tune guitars, and c) the distraction of “We Are the World” rehearsals behind them as they play. If you watch the one number included, you see validation for Wood’s statements. He and Dylan both need new guitars during the song, and Wood gets so distracted with the matters behind the stage curtain that he peeks back there to see what’s happening.

None of this redeems the truly messy performance. Things get so bad that at one point, Dylan looks at Wood with a “what’re ya gonna do?” smirk and roll of his eyes. Whether due to external problems or a lack of preparation, the Dylan set deserves its reputation as a train wreck.

On the surface, it probably looks weird that Eighties relics Hall and Oates get so much time on this disc - they cut out a song from Madonna but kept so much of H2O’s stuff? However, don’t forget that they were absolutely huge at the time, and the inclusion of former Temptations lead vocalists Ruffin and Kendricks brought generation-spanning appeal to those numbers. The numbers are a bit sloppy and don’t live up to expectations, but this is still a fairly fun set.

Finally, the day ends with an all-star performance of “We Are the World”. While “Christmas” finished Wembley on a high note, “World” comes across as bloated and incoherent. Of course, it’s not as good a song as “Christmas”, but the messy and rambling rendition of it doesn’t help. No one really seems to know what they’re supposed to do, and the sound of more Labelle screeching burdens this one even more. It’s an almost unlistenable take on the tune.

That’s too bad, for so much of Live Aid is good that it’s a shame the day finishes on a negative note. Don’t let “World” or the other weak material ruin things for you, though. Any show with this many different acts inevitably will suffer from more than a few clunkers. Plenty of great work shows up here, which means that Live Aid merits its legendary status.


The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

Live Aid appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Given the source material, I expected some problems to occur. Those issues did pop up, but I felt pleased with the results anyway.

Since Live Aid took place on two continents under a mix of lighting conditions, a great deal of variety was observed in this set. If I were to account for every change that I saw, it’d take a tremendous amount of space, much more than it’d deserve. Instead, I’ll cover my general impressions of the image and relate a few notable exceptions/specifics.

Sharpness was quite erratic but mostly good. Not surprisingly, the wider the shots went, the softer they became. Most close-ups appeared pretty concise and distinctive. However, quite a lot of the show came across as fuzzy and ill-defined. These concerns crept into the picture with moderate frequency, but they didn’t dominate, and I felt generally pleased with the clarity of the performances. Note that some of the softness resulted from the program’s “on the fly” production; many unclear shots stemmed from iffy focus.

To my surprise, no real issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred. Those problems often mar concert presentations, but they were very minor here. Haloes seemed pretty prominent much of the time, though. They were apparent during much of the program.

Source flaws weren’t much of an issue, with one major exception: rolling bars. These showed up during a lot of the Wembley shots but didn’t pop up for the JFK elements. The rolling bars were apparent through much of Wembley, and they became more prominent as the day progressed. I’m sure these were an unavoidable artifact of the source material, so I don’t think anything could be done about them. Nonetheless, they do create some definite distractions.

As with everything else, colors varied. Usually the daylight shots presented the brightest, most vibrant tones, though those weren’t perfect rules. The nighttime elements from JFK often looked quite dynamic, while a few of that show’s day shots were somewhat flat. The nighttime bits from Wembley consistently looked runny, though, with hues that were too heavy.

For both shows, blacks came across as pretty solid. The dark tones remained nicely deep and dense throughout the day, and the occasional low-light elements offered good delineation. Not a lot of those elements occurred, and most of them connected to colored lighting, which meant the quality of the hues was the most important factor. In any case, no significant issues marred either blacks or shadows. Live Aid offered an erratic picture with a number of notable flaws, but it seemed satisfactory for a nearly-20-year videotaped program.

As with all music DVDs that don’t star Britney Spears, I care more about the audio than the visuals. Live Aid came decked out with two separate multi-channel mixes. We got a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack along with a DTS 5.1 mix. The pair seemed identical, as I noticed no reliable elements to distinguish one from the other.

That didn’t mean that the two provided totally consistent audio, as they varied somewhat from act to act. The soundfield mostly remained the same throughout the day, though. The front spectrum definitely dominated the presentation. The surrounds offered crowd noise and general reinforcement of the music, but no distinctive unique elements popped up in the rear.

In the front, stereo separation usually worked well. As I noted, matters became erratic, and a few songs veered toward glorified mono status. Nonetheless, the music normally spread out the instruments smoothly and put them in the appropriate places. Some illogical delineation occasionally created slight distractions, such as when we’d see singers on the left and hear them from the right, but those instances popped up infrequently. Usually the elements spread neatly and landed in the right spots.

Audio quality was inconsistent, but most of the music sounded pretty good. The worst parts came from some Wembley songs, which displayed noticeable distortion. This crept into the presentation during Dire Straits’ set and became particularly rough as Queen played. The distortion wasn’t overwhelming, and it didn’t interfere with most of the show, but the problems occasionally distracted. I also heard brief, sporadic dropouts, such as at the start of George Thorogood’s number.

Except for these infrequent flaws, the quality was usually solid. Vocals mostly sounded warm and natural. Other than the already-mentioned distortion, no flaws crept in, and I heard no edginess for the singing. The tracks occasionally became a bit reedy and thin, as bass response wasn’t as good as I would have liked. Low-end usually seemed satisfying, and at times the music showed very nice bass. Still, it could have been a bit warmer, and the highs sometimes were a little lackluster.

Given the nature of the shows, however, I can’t feel too upset with the mix of minor problems. Live Aid was a massive production and the various technical issues clearly caused some concerns. Mostly the music sounded more than acceptably clear and distinctive, so I felt satisfied with the audio.

We find a few extras on these DVDs. On Disc One, we find three pieces. First we discover the BBC News Report that initially inspired Bob Geldof to take action. It lasts seven minutes, 35 seconds and is a nice “time capsule” moment.

In addition we discover two music videos connected to the project. We get both Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” as well as USA for Africa’s “We Are the World”. These are a great addition to the set and a lot of fun to see. It’s especially entertaining to scan the chorus to figure out how many of the performers we still recognize.

Over on DVD Four, we get the majority of the extras. The broadcast of Live Aid included a number of performances not from Wembley or JFK, and we get a few of these. INXS from Australia comes from a show called “Oz for Africa”. It was an Australian benefit, and we get two of INXS’s tunes in this eight-minute and 45-second segment. They do “What You Need” and “Don’t Change”. Both songs sound very good.

Another performance shot overseas and included as part of the Live Aid festivities, we find BB King from North Sea Jazz Festival. He does three songs in this 11-minute and 35-second piece. We hear “Why I Sing The Blues”, “Don't Answer the Door”, and “Rock Me Baby”. I’m not a big fan of King’s work, but this is a nice addition nonetheless.

The next clip actually comes from the JFK show. We find a performance from Ashford & Simpson with Teddy Pendergrass. In this six-minute and 19-second clip, they do “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand). Pendergrass became a paraplegic after a 1982 accident, and apparently this was one of his first public performances. I don’t know why it ends up in the supplements instead of as part of the main show, though I suspect technical difficulties led to this choice; some sloppiness appears. Anyway, it’s another good extra.

Also from the JFK show, Run DMC lasts seven minutes and 27 seconds. They do “Jam Master Jay” and “King of Rock”. Why isn’t this in the main set? Again, I don’t know, especially since I didn’t notice any significant technical issues.

Though we get Cliff Richard from London, his two-minute and 52-second clip doesn’t come from Wembley. He plays solo in a nightclub as he does “A World of Difference”. It’s a pretty sappy song.

Next we find more from the Overseas Contributors. In the 14-minute and 36-second compilation, we get snippets from “Austria for Africa”, where some form of Austrian supergroup plays “Warum?” A similar Kraut band does “Nackt Im Wind” from “German Band Aid”. Oddly but mercifully, it fades before it ends, and we go to Japan for that bits and pieces of the acts who played a benefit show there. We get snippets from Loudness and Eikichi Yazawa.

Autograph comes from the USSR, while Yu Rock Mission emanates from Yugoslavia. Norway offers “All of Us”, which appears to be another supergroup with a “We Are the World” style tune. Who knew the rest of the world contained so many terrible pop acts? All of these acts totally stink, though to be fair, if we were to judge American talent based on “We Are the World”, the US would look pretty lame as well. In any case, the music contained here isn’t just bad – it’s spooky bad, though often hilariously so.

Already available on The Best of Bowie, we get the David Bowie and Mick Jagger music video for “Dancing in the Street”. God, did I love this thing back in 1985. In retrospect, it’s not too hot, but I maintain a soft spot for it, and it’s a good addition to the set. Too bad we don’t also get Prince’s “4 the Tears In Your Eyes” video.

Finally, the set concludes with a documentary called Food and Trucks and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Subtitled “The Band Aid Story”, it runs 64 minutes and 58 seconds as it presents shots of the famine in Africa and the creation of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” It then covers the companion benefit records and other efforts at support. These lead toward the Live Aid shows and we also see the activities meant to relieve starvation and prevent future issues. In addition to a narrator, we mostly get sound bites from Bob Geldof, though a mix of others pop up briefly. The program doesn’t present a concise and full history of the project, but it offers a decent examination of the elements and their results, so it’s worth a look.

As I mentioned in the body of the review, this set omits many songs from the Live Aid concerts. It may come as a shock that we lose a whopping 85 numbers! That essentially means that this package fails to include almost half of the material.

Some of the deletions occur because the artists involved withheld permission. As far as I know, that only affects the reunited Led Zeppelin set. Famously messy, the band didn’t sound very good that day, and they wouldn’t allow their material to appear. A few others also may fail to appear due to this issue, but I only know for certain of the Led Zep refusal.

In addition, some tracks likely get the boot due to technical issues. Problems marred a few performances, with the most notable flaws apparent during the Who’s first couple of tracks. Because of that, it doesn’t come as a huge surprise that these songs don’t pop up in the package.

Otherwise, I figure that the set is trimmed to make it more manageable. I would guess that the folks behind the release didn’t want to put out a seven or eight disc set so they chopped a lot of it. This means we lose songs from 31 of the shows’ performances, and we also find that nine acts fail to appear at all: Bernard Watson, Kool and the Gang (pre-recorded live videos), the Hooters, the Four Tops, Billy Ocean, Rick Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Santana, and Power Station.

Do all these deletions mean we’ll eventually get a second volume of Live Aid performances? Hopefully. Clearly a Volume 2 would present less star power, as this package includes most of the day’s notable performances. Nonetheless, a lot of good material remains, with numbers from Madonna, Phil Collins, Sting, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Duran Duran and Elton John missing among others. Considering that part of the reason Bob Geldof pursued a DVD release was to combat all the pirated releases of the event, it’d make sense to make sure the whole thing eventually makes the shelves.

Arguably the most ambitious and significant concert event in rock history, Live Aid remains an amazing and unparalleled achievement almost two decades later. This four-DVD set helps recapture the magic – and the goofs – of that famous day in a satisfying set. This package comes with erratic but acceptable picture and fairly good audio as well as some decent extras.

It’s too bad that the release doesn’t all of the Live Aid performances, but it’s certainly extensive enough to be a solid package. I know a lot of fans want to boycott the set due to the missing material, but that seems like an example of cutting off your nose to spite your face. I agree with the disappointment that we don’t get the entire day’s set, but I’m extremely pleased with what we do get and hope for an eventual “Volume 2” to finish matters. I definitely recommend Live Aid.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3209 Stars Number of Votes: 81
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