The problem with Live Earth

Much as I applaud the ideals of Live Earth, I think I have been afflicted by GMEF (That’s Global Music Event Fatigue). The frequency that we have huge telethons and transatlantic concerts means that we also need TV presenters to remind us just how historic this concert will be:
“Just how historic is this concert going to be, Jack Osbourne?”
“Its going to be very historic, Jonathan…”
The eagerness to define and document this kind of history, as it happens, is a particular symptom of the 24 hour news culture world in which we live. As we watch these programmes, we (and their producers) seem ignorant of the fact that they will not persist in our collective memory like the original Live Aid concert in 1985. Why? The clue is in the word “original” – Live Aid was the first event of its kind.
These other concerts are mere fakes, fabrications, exercises in nostalgia. They may be bigger, and they may even have better music. But the lack of novelty in the idea renders them free from the radicalism and urgency which characterised Live Aid. The result is a cruel pastiche, and each global music event yields diminishing returns for longevity, historical impact, and probably money too. And with so many other channels to watch, they are also ineffective as a shared cultural moment. This last point is crucial when there is a wider political message to be communicated. If people do not feel an ownership for the event, then the message is less likely to be discussed.
And to see acts like Duran Duran and Kanye West playing on two consecutive weekends surely devalues both events. There is little incentive to tune in for the event of the year/decade/century/your life, if you’ve seen the same event the week before.
Simon Le Bon
Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran sings at Wembley Stadium for Live Earth. or was it Live Aid? Or the Concert For Diana?

5 Replies to “The problem with Live Earth”

  1. The ennui isn’t just a problem for the audience. Some bloke (I forget who, he was in a band composed entirely of people young enough to be my children) said “save the polar bears” at some point on saturday, and at the G8 event Robbie Williams, when being interviewed, clearly had absolutely no idea what the “cause” was.
    The proliferation of these events has led to, or at least reflects, the commodotisation of single issue politics. We now have a pick and mix approach to causes, consuming them like franchise store coffee and imagining that they say something unique and intersting about us.
    I only saw a few minitues of it, but the problem which Live Earth had, to a greater degree than other similar concerts, is that it threw an even sharper focus on the paradox inherent in all global charity events. We see the (private) jet set burning megawatts of power, and an audience of (alledgely) billions burning even more power to watch/listen to it on TV/Internet. I don’t know the maths of carbon footprints and I’m not a follower of the eco-religion, but even through my cynical eyes, never has “the solution” looked more like the problem.

  2. Oh come on! To use a cliche, “you’ve got to spend money to make money”….so the ecological cost of this big event is tiny compared to so much of everyday life. And if it is able to change a little bit, so be it.
    I’m cynical about these events too….the Diana thing and what not….but I do think such a large scale thing can only help the cause. Lend legitimacy to a million tiny arguments between parents, like me telling my dad to replace old light bulbs, or something. This is when Madonna can really show her power.

  3. It was a shame that two very similar concerts were held on consecutive weekends. The original will always have the greater impact but in the case of the concert for Diana, I think the boys were justified in doing that – in our family we do not give up on family birthday teas just because we have had one recently – they come thick and fast and are all enjoyed for something different that the participants bring to the table – food wise and social exchange. I think that was a good way to remember Diana.
    When I hear Ricky Gervais I never know whether it is a joke or not – part of his appeal I think – the filling in prior to Elton John? and then the bit about the jets flying in the bands at the Live earth – says it how it is

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