OK, so let's talk about Live 8, before I completely forget what happened there.

On Saturday I went in to Hyde Park with Paul, Em, and Em's brother Andrew, to be part of the crowd for possibly the biggest rock concert ever held. There's probably not that much point in going on about the goal of the day, as Sir Bob did an admirable job of saturating the world's media during the leadup.

So anyway, we turned up and picked our little patch of grass – next time I reckon some sort of rug would be advantageous – and prepared ourselves for the musical onslaught. We were a fair old distance from the stage (hence why the photos aren't that good), but we could still see pretty well.

2pm rolled around and we were greeted with a fanfare by what looked to be some kind of Royal detachment of trumpet players, however I think everybody found their presence a bit mystifying, because the fanfare was over almost as soon as it had started, and then they'd marched off again. Maybe it was meant to provide some kind of military segue, because the gig was kicked off by Paul McCartney and U2 singing Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band! (Sir Paul confessed later that it was the first time he'd ever played that song at a live gig)… the crowd went ballistic, and we were away !

From that point Bono took over, and we were into the gig. It was at the conclusion of U2's set that Paul made one of his 2 cracking comments of the event. He leant over to me and said “That support act was shithouse !”. Pure comedy. U2 sang “Beautiful Day”, which Bono intermixed a chorus of the Beatles' “Blackbird” into which I suspect may have coincided with the release of a flock of doves however you couldn't see that from where we were. They continued with Vertigo and One, and then moved off. I was still standing there grinning like an awesrtuck idiot, when Coldplay came on (at which point I became self aware again and was able to think).

There's no point in listing all the bands, because I'd be here forever – the gig ran for 9 and a half hours, for God's sake ! But there were some definite highlights.

It was a complete rush to see Paul McCartney, U2, Elton John, Bob Geldof, R.E.M., Madonna, Scissor Sisters, Velvet Rovelver, Sting, Robbie Williams, The Who, and Pink Floyd *in the same afternoon* ! As well as that, they had some pretty damn cool and somestimes random people doing intros – Ricky Gervais, Bill Gates, Kofi Annan, Lenny Henry, Dawn French, Brad Pitt, Peter Kay… and they were just the ones I *liked* !

It's not that I found all of the 'recent' acts tedious – I really got into The Stereophonics, Razorlight, and the Scissor Sisters… but I guess I found Travis, Coldplay, Joss Stone, Keane and Snow Patrol perfect opportunities to sit down and relax a bit.

It seemed a bit of a non-sequitir to have Snoop Dogg there – it broke the day up a bit, but was a hell of a change in pace, going from “We have the power to change the world – band together and the G8 leaders will take notice” to “What's my name ? Put your mutherf*cking hands in the air !”.

Another thing which I found weird was the amount of time each act was given – The Killers got only one song (not my favourite band, but the crowd was right behind them), whereas Mariah Carey seemed to be out there for a week !

Another favourite in my book was Will Smith – although he wasn't in Hyde Park, we got a live cross to Philadelphia. Andrew seemed to find it fairly amusing that I'd been nonplussed by Keane, Snow Patrol, Coldplay, et al. and het here I was grooving away to “Getting Jiggy Wit It”.

Without doubt though my favourite act was Pink Floyd – I had resigned myself back in about 1995 that I'd never get the chance to see them perform (after the PULSE tour), so this was a definite bonus. However, the fact that Dave Gilmour and Roger Waters had decided to bury the hatchet and perform together meant that this was the first time in 25 years that the entire group had perfomed, and it really felt like a moment in history. Granted, they looked (as Alexis Petridis opined for The Guardian) “like senior partners in a firm of chartered accountants”, but the sound was spot on and I found it difficult to breathe during the opening notes of their first song (ironically, “Breathe” from Dark Side of the Moon). By the time they got to playing Wish You Were Here I had almost completely lost control of my faculties – it was the feel of someone putting on a pair of old shoes, yet at the same time making an effort to try to walk in a perfect straight line. The material so familiar, and yet such attention to the detail of making the performance exact and worthwhile for the audience. Quite simply, I was in heaven.

Other highlights include Sir Paul McCartney's rendition of Helter Skelter in the closing moments of the gig – that bloke can rock hard for an old fella ! I've got to admit, I really enjoyed Madonna and Robbie Williams, even though there's no way I'd lie straight in bed and pay to see either of them.

Paul's second amazing comment was made yesterday, when he said on the phone “I'd completely forgotten I'd seen R.E.M.!”, which let's face it, was indicative of the overwhelming anture of the gig. Under what other circumstances could it completely slip your mind that you saw R.E.M. !?

It was difficult to be there and listen to all the diatribe about the African situation and not form an opinion, and it upsets me a little, as I usually avoid forming opinions on the basis that I know I'm under-informed. It was truly touching when Bob Geldof showed footage of a 5 year old girl from the first Live Aid concert Ethiopia footage (who had been given 5 days to live) and then attempted to silence critics of the movement by introduing a now fully grown and university qualified girl, 20 years later. I guess my take on it was that thought it's not possible to solve all the world's problems in one go, and a solution may overlook many intricacies, that's no reason why we shouldn't try.

Anyway, the final analysis from me is that it was an *awesome* gig, and I think it achieved one of its goals in making the world take notice of what was going on and getting alot of people talking and thinking about the situation in Africa. Whether the G8 leaders are affected remains to be seen, but one thing's for sure – it was surely the biggest rock concert ever held on the planet so far !

I actually wrote this a couple of days ago, and didn't quite get around to uploading it at the time. It has since occurred to me that I'd completely forgotten that I went to the Royal Albert Hall the night before to see Oscar Peterson. It probably won't mean a lot to most people who read this, but I reckon anyone whose jazz career spans 60 years, and has played with people like Stan Getz and Ella Fitzgerald, certainly deserves at least a passing mention.

What an awesome gig – the crowd were 100% into it, and I can honestly say I've never seen piano playing as amazing as that… even more amazing considering the dude's 80 years old !! Utterly breathtaking jazz, but always with a feeling of moving forward, or reflective, but never stuck in that eyes-shut, head waving experimental space that tends to lose a mainstream crowd.

It seemed a shame to let him leave the stage… but it was probably past his bedtime.

Seriously though, an amazing couple of days of music.

2005-07-11 : Not your average day in the park…
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