Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Live 8, Talent 0

Never mind that the proceeds from the Live 8 concerts will do nothing to relieve African poverty, not even for an hour.

Never mind that the opinions of a group of self-important multi-millionaire pop stars on debt relief should be given as much weight as the IMF's views on bass riffs and synth cords.

Never mind that writing off $40 billion of foreign debt will only reward decades of kleptocracy and wasteful Marxist-inspired dirigisme.

No, the most offensive part of this pharasaical exercise in public self-congratulation is that we'll have to listen to a bunch of has-beens who were available on such short notice because, well, they're over the hill.

Thus sneers Toronto Star pop music critic Ben Rayner:

While the collective popularity at home and abroad of the artists who will assemble in the barren stretch of highwayside turf formerly known as Molson Park and now known as Park Place (not quite the Palais de Versailles, that) on July 2 is nothing to be sneezed at, the artists are, in the accelerated terms by which popular music operates, almost without exception representative of the distant past.

Bryan Adams, Bruce Cockburn, Gordon Lightfoot, Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings and Tom Cochrane have all made a significant dent in the Canadian and international consciousnesses at various points during their careers, but the days of their greatest visibility and popular success are long behind them.

Blue Rodeo, Jann Arden, the Tragically Hip and the Barenaked Ladies, too, are now fondly regarded as elder statesmen (and woman) more so than they are vibrant artistic concerns. Even the comparatively callow Our Lady Peace has, to some extent, become yesterday's news to the kids; the reformed Mötley Crüe actually has more contemporary resonance.

So what gives? If, as Geldof has stated, the Live 8 project is aimed at raising as much awareness and enthusiasm for the drive to eradicate global poverty as possible, would it not make sense to cast the net a little more widely, to trawl for support amongst generations that might actually be around long enough to see the goal through?

It is rarely a problem drawing 35,000 bodies out to a star-studded free concert, even one that raises the terrible spectre of a via-satellite appearance by Vegas-shackled Céline Dion. The concert's simultaneous scheduling with five other massively hyped Live 8 shows in Paris, Rome, Berlin, Philadelphia and London automatically makes it the kind of event that people want to be a part of.

Why not, then, make an effort beyond the cursory inclusion of young(-ish) Canadians Sam Roberts, A Simple Plan and Tegan & Sara — who will, no doubt, wind up playing three-song sets with fellow sacrificial tokens the African Guitar Summit and DobaCaracol featuring Kna'an to an indifferent crowd beneath the full might of the early-afternoon sun — on the bill to attract at least the attention, if not the physical presence, of a broader range of music fans?

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