Live Aid (1985)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Additional Footage-INXS From Australia, B.B. King From North Sea Jazz Festival,
Additional Footage-Ashford & Simpson WithTeddy Pendergrass, Run DMC,
Additional Footage-Cliff Richard From London, Overseas Contributors,
Additional Footage-David Bowie & Mick Jagger
Featurette-Documentary: Food And Trucks And Rock 'n'Roll
|Year Of Production||1985|
|Running Time||438:01 (Case: 600)|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Multi Disc Set (4)
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Various|
The Beach Boys
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.29:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
In 1985, Live Aid became one of the defining moments of television, popular music, and 20th Century history. After almost 20 years, a box set of four DVDs has been released, which captures about 10 of the original 16 hours of televised performances by some of the World's leading recording stars.
In 1985, Bob Geldof was only known as the lead singer of one-hit-wonders The Boomtown Rats, who had scored an international hit with I Don't Like Mondays. But one evening on television, he was confronted with horrifying images of the famine in Ethiopia (which by that stage had already claimed over one million lives). Geldof was shocked: "The images were incredible, showing a mother who could not even hold her baby in her arms, her dead baby, an old man who was too fragile to run for distributed food, he would only arrive after all food had been distributed".
In response, Geldof enlisted the help of other UK recording artists. With Midge Ure of Ultravox, Geldof co-wrote and produced the hit single "Do They Know it's Christmas". US recording artists followed Geldof's lead, with their international hit single, "We Are The World". (Strangely, I still easily remember all the words to both these tunes). Inspired by the success of these singles, and the co-operation he received from all the recording stars, Band Aid then launched Live Aid.
Perhaps the most ambitious television project ever, Live Aid would result in a 16-hour television marathon, broadcasting a series of live performances from concerts globally via satellite. This was certainly no easy feat in 1985 -- an age before mobile phones, or many of the technology and communication advances we now take for granted.
Live Aid would rely on the cream of the recording industry (and all their support crew), working free of charge. It would also rely on all the music publishers, record companies, and songwriters also all waiving their fees. The concerts were to have an unparalleled line-up: In London (Wembley Stadium), performers included Status Quo, Sting, Phil Collins, U2, Dire Straits, Queen, Who, and Elton John. In Philadelphia (JFK Stadium), performers included Joan Baez, Black Sabbath, The Beach Boys, Simple Minds, Madonna, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Duran Duran, Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, and Bob Dylan. There were also a number of concerts in other countries, and in Australia (Oz For Africa), performers included INXS, Midnight Oil, Mondo Rock, Little River Band, Australian Crawl, Men At Work, Dragon, and Mental As Anything.
The concerts and broadcasts (which were watched by millions globally) not only raised hundreds of millions of dollars, but importantly, they also raised global awareness of the massive gulf between the first and third worlds. As a 15-year-old-boy, I sat up to watch the concerts on television (simulcast on radio), and I can still recall the buzz of excitement I felt from being part of something special and unique. Live Aid was a global event proving the existence of a World community, which could care for each other.
To date, there has never been a CD, VHS, or DVD release of Live Aid, for one simple reason: All the performers agreed to appear, in often chaotic and un-rehearsed performances, on the promise from Geldof that there would be no recording made. Indeed, US broadcaster ABC even destroyed their tapes at the end of the broadcast, as per instruction. Thankfully, MTV had a copy of most of the US performances, and the UK's BBC One were a little sneaky, and deliberately saved theirs as well.
Almost 20 years later, Warner Home Video sought all of the artists' permission for this DVD release, and only had one knock-back: Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and John Paul Jones had reunited on stage in Philadelphia (with Phil Collins replacing the late John Bonham as drummer). The former Led Zeppelin members refused permission for their performance to be included on the DVD, claiming their performance was "sub-standard". However, I understand that they have made a financial donation to the cause.
Disc One (Concert 137:44)
Disc One opens with a BBC News Report (7:38) from October 1984 on the famine in Ethiopia. It is followed by the music videos from Band Aid's Do They Know It's Christmas (4:32), and USA For Africa's We Are The World (7:14). It would have been a nice touch if they had included Band Aid 20's recent cover as well.
The rest of Disc One is taken up with the first instalment of the Live Aid concert. It's a beautiful sunny day on July 13, 1985, when Status Quo take to the stage and kick the concert off, with the very apt (and infectious) Rockin' All Over The World. At 110:44, the concert at JFK begins with Jack Nicholson introducing Bryan Adams. Following this, and over the next three discs, we go back and forth between the two concerts.
The performers on Disc One are:
Disc Two (Concert 144:46)
Disc Two opens in the US with the Beach Boys, but for me, the highlight is Queen's blistering set, which features many of their best songs. Disc Two also includes a CBC Ethiopian Famine documentary.
The performers on Disc Two are:
Disc Three (Concert 136:36)
Disc Three kicks off with Madonna, but the highlight for me was the Wembley Stadium finale.
The performers on Disc Three are:
Disc Four (Concert 45:55)
Disc Four Opens with Hall & Oates, but undoubtedly, the outstanding performance is by the very energetic Mick Jagger, who reminds us why he's one of the all-time best front-men.
The performers on Disc Four are:
One of the inspiring features of the original Band Aid appeal was that Geldof promised that every cent received would be used in Africa. No money would be lost in administration or the other overheads that makes other charity foundations give only 10-30% of money raised to their cause. This depended on everyone involved in the project, ranging from recording artists to the various music publishers, song writers and the many record companies involved, waiving all of their fees. Interestingly, with this DVD box set, while all the artists and song writers have again agreed to receive nothing, Warner Home Video have decided to pocket the profits from the sales. (I understand that Warner did pay a royalty to the Band Aid Trust to release the DVDs, and that money is going to the charity.)
Further details, including a complete track-listing, can be found at www.liveaiddvd.net.
Okay, this was 1980s Live OB (Outside Broadcast) television, and I have to admit from the outset that there are some serious problems with the transfer. Indeed, this is explained in the accompanying booklet: "The quality of the material is variable - either because it was recorded via satellite, has been converted from NTSC to PAL or because it has been damaged over the years . . . We have applied modern technology to repair any damage as far as we can and the footage has all been expertly colour graded . . . The horizontal 'banding' that appears on some of the UK performances is called microphony and occurs when the camera lens is affected by great volume . . The UK audio has been treated with the help of multi-tracks recorded by BBC Radio 1, but in the US there were no multi-tracks and the sound is as recorded"
The transfer is presented in the 1980s television aspect ratio of 1.33:1.
The sharpness of the image sometimes suffers, as some of the video footage is a little hazy. The shadow detail is not great either, such as the complete lack of detail at 11:11 on Disc Four, but again one must consider this was a live concert, with concert lighting, and a lot of harsh natural light (during the daytime segments).
Although the contents have all been colour graded, the colours often appear washed out. There is also a lot of colour bleeding on these old tapes.
The image is often grainy, and MPEG artefacts do appear in the form of pixelization, such as at 66:06 on Disc One, or 8:34 on Disc Four.
Film-to-video artefacts also appear, and some aliasing is evident, such as the shimmer on the buildings at 13:16 and 30:52 of Disc One.
Some awful video artefacts appear throughout, including a lot of the aforementioned horizontal banding (microphony).
English, French, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles are provided for the spoken word, but not for the song lyrics. The English subtitles are fairly accurate.
These are four Dual Layered discs, with the layer changes placed at 77:30, 73:06, and 70:17 for Discs one to three. I assume the layer change is placed between the concert and the extras on Disc four.
As mentioned above, "The UK audio has been treated with the help of multi-tracks recorded by BBC Radio 1, but in the US there were no multi-tracks and the sound is as recorded". Overall the quality is much better than I had expected.
There are no less than three audio options: English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s), English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), and English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s). I did not find that much difference between the two surround-encoded options, but did tend to listen to the dts one.
The dialogue quality and audio sync are mostly fine throughout, but as it's a live concert, there are a few audio hiccups.
The live music is provided by some of the 1980s top recording stars, and in London (Wembley Stadium), performers included Status Quo, Sting, Phil Collins, U2, Dire Straits, Queen, Who, and Elton John. In Philadelphia (JFK Stadium), performers included Joan Baez, Black Sabbath, The Beach Boys, Simple Minds, Madonna, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Duran Duran, Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, and Bob Dylan.
I was pleasantly surprised by the surround presence and activity. There is good separation across the front three speakers, and the rears are used effectively, for the sound of the crowd. It makes for a very immersive experience, especially when the crowd starts cheering or singing along.
Generally, the music exhibits a good dynamic range, and the subwoofer certainly helps with the bass on many of the songs.
|Surround Channel Use|
The extras are excellent. Apart from the music videos and news reports I mentioned earlier (presented as part of the main feature), there are also the following extras on Disc Four:
An animated menu with audio.
A sizeable glossy colour booklet, packed with information and photographs.
These are Live Aid performances, but not from the Wembley or JFK concerts.
Music Video (2:58)
Dancing In The Street - Mick Jagger & David Bowie
Featurette-Documentary: Food And Trucks And Rock 'n' Roll (65:04)
A documentary made a year after the Live Aid concert, showing the results of the fund raising efforts being put to good use.
The Live Aid box set will be the same in the US, except for PAL/NTSC differences.
Live Aid is an important and enjoyable DVD release. Often DVDs are described as being "feel good". Well, this is a genuine feel good release!
The video quality is slightly disappointing but still very watchable.
The audio quality is good, and much better than I had expected.
The extras are excellent.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-535, using S-Video output|
|Display||Grundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Sony STR DE-545|
|Speakers||Sony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer|