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The internet means Live Aid could never happen again, says Bob Geldof

By | Published on Friday 13 March 2020

The Boomtown Rats

Something like the big 1985 Live Aid concert could never happen again because the internet has stopped us all focusing on the exact same thing at the exact same time, reckons Bob Geldof. We’re all just “cyber wanking into the digital void” now, instead of focussing as one on changing the world. And that, he reckons, has handed power back to politicians.

“To change economics, you must engage with the agents of change, which, like it or not, [means] you’ve got to talk to the politicians”, he says in a new interview with CBC. “We had a huge lobby [in 1985]: 1.2 billion people, 95% of the television sets on Earth watched that concert. Politics is just numbers. They can’t ignore it”.

He adds that this Live Aid-instigated change did not come over night, rather it was 20 years later when politicians who had watched the benefit concert when they were younger came to power. But now, he says, “that instrument of change is no longer plausible”.

“Rock and roll was the central spine of our culture for 50 years”, he goes on. “The web has broken down the world into individualism and that’s easy for authoritarians to use … We’ve reduced ourselves. The 21st century is reductionist and it’s using the great tool of reductionism, the internet”.

The future might not be entirely bleak though, he adds: “Something like Live Aid can’t happen now, but that doesn’t stop you raging against the dying of the light. That doesn’t stop you acknowledging that all generations fail and some fail more spectacularly than others”.

“It doesn’t mean that you can’t be Greta Thunberg and stand in front of your school silently and just say ‘no'”, he goes on. “That’s still there. The possibility to steer your world in the direction you need to live in, that’s there, but it ain’t this cyber wanking into the digital void”.

So, hey, well done you for reading about all this in a niche publication on the internet. Of course other things have changed since 1985 which may also have had an effect on people’s view of events like Live Aid. Not least a greater awareness of different world events, meaning it’s hard to know which terrible thing to get a load of millionaires to entertain you in aid of.

Even Geldof recognised that in 2005 when the 20th anniversary edition of Live Aid – Live 8 – was staged to coincide with the G8 political conference. That time the event aimed to put the spotlight on the much bigger issue of global poverty, rather than raising money for and building awareness about one specific terrible event, ie the 1983-1985 famine in Ethiopia.

Then there’s the fact that – if you were thinking of staging awareness or money raising events in multiple locations around the world in 2020 – well, the big things in the news at the moment are climate change and coronavirus. And neither of them really lend themselves to the idea of getting loads of people together in one place and then sending Phil Collins over the Atlantic on Concorde so he can play at more than one show in one country in one day. I mean, Concorde doesn’t even fly anymore.