Benefit concerts for less fortunate hit DVD

by Beacon Staff • November 9, 2005

Rock stars are often considered a selfish and sometimes ignorant group, many of whom are paid lavishly to jump around on stage. While some are in the spotlight merely for doing drugs or wasting money, a select few choose to use their prestige to raise money for those who really need it.

One of the most effective ways to do this is through benefit shows that can both educate and entertain the masses. Two such events, Live 8 and the Concert for Bangladesh, were recently released on DVD.

Live 8, which made its way to shelves this Tuesday, was a series of eight concerts held in various cities around the world (including London, Philadelphia, Rome and Paris) on July 2 of this year.

The shows were organized by Sir Bob Geldof in an effort to raise awareness about the G8 summit, which was a meeting of the leaders of the world's eight wealthiest nations to discuss the problems plaguing Africa.

Although the G8 summit was successful toward the process of canceling African relief debt, and the concerts were also musically successful, the official Live 8 DVD is a mixed bag, offering a greatest hits compilation heavily taken from the London and Philadelphia shows. A few complete sets are included for the day's biggest acts, including U2, Coldplay, Paul McCartney and the briefly reunited Pink Floyd.

The DVD also heavily features the day's numerous collaborations, such as Coldplay and The Verve's Richard Ashcroft playing "Bittersweet Symphony" and Paul McCartney performing "Drive My Car" with George Michael.

Seemingly arbitrary songs are tossed in, creating a diverse mix that runs from Roxy Music's "Do the Strand" to Kanye West's "Diamonds from Sierra Leone." Certain artists like The Cure and Barenaked Ladies, however, are passed up in favor of other, lesser-known performers like Ms. Dynamite and Jars of Clay.

Live 8 was not the first rock concert with a humanitarian aim. On Aug. 1, 1971, George Harrison-with a little help from his friends, including Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan-held the "Concert for Bangladesh" at Madison Square Garden, and a re-mastered edition of both the film and its soundtrack were re-released recently.

The idea for the show came from Ravi Shankar, the Indian guru and sitar player who influenced Harrison's late 60s work with The Beatles. Shankar wanted to help the 10 million refugees from Bangladesh (formerly known as East Pakistan) who fled into India after a brutal conflict left up to millions dead in a struggle over governmental control of the country.

The concert, which through numerous releases has raised over $15 million for UNICEF to benefit the refugees, covers material from a variety of artists, including a lengthy performance from Shankar.

Harrison, in his first concert appearance since the Beatles' break-up, chooses tracks from a variety of sources-his former band ("While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Something"), solo material ("My Sweet Lord") and also a new song, "Bangla Desh." The climax of the show is interspersed with moving footage of refugees in the film. Harrison's passion for the cause seems evident in both his appearance and delivery during the finale.

While the film reveals that "Bangladesh" was simply a concert, its effect on the music world was undeniable. By getting his buddies to play some songs with him, Harrison paved the way for people like Geldof to create charitable concerts to aid the less fortunate, and keep the rest of the world singing and dancing.

,"Bryan O'Toole"

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