Saturday, May 12, 2007

Geldof Criticizes Gore's Live Earth

I had to laugh when I saw the above as a headline on MSNBC's website. It must have been tough for the headline writer to encapsulate this story in one line. On one hand, you don't want to put anybody too obscure in the headline without an identifying marker. Since we are 22 years removed from Bob Geldof's major triumph, it seems that the correct decision would be to identify him as "Live Aid's Geldof." On the other hand, "Live Aid's Geldof criticizes Gore's Live Earth" sounds awkward. Ideally, you would be able to dispense with "Gore" from the headline altogether, but "Live Earth" doesn't have enough legs to stand on its own apart from Al Gore, which is indicative of a much deeper problem.

The actual criticism that Geldof levies is an apt one, that Gore's multi-continental concerts for the environment in June aren't really worthwhile because they lack a tangible goal. This criticism is a bit odd in light of the fact that Geldof's 2005 Live 8 concerts for third world poverty had no tangible goal, but had the same stated objective as Gore's: "to raise awareness." Perhaps Geldof learned from experience that even given worldwide media attention on the strength of Live Aid's reputation, rock concerts don't do a whole lot to bring awareness to issues. As he says about Gore's ambitions: "We are all (expletive) conscious of global warming."

The use of an expletive hearkens back to Geldof's liberal usage of language during Live Aid, which at the time was credited as an off-the-cuff display of passion that spiked donation pledges. However, similar carelessness in elocution today reveals a disconnect in understanding how artists connect with audiences. Geldof (and Gore) come from a generation in which music was inextricably linked with culture. It mattered to fans not only how their favorite bands sounded, but what values they espoused. Such a connection had a hidden value for the artists--fans remained loyal to bands long after creative energy was exhausted. The Live Aid concerts were virtually concurrent with the nativity of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Live Aid featured many of those HOFers, many of them at the slough of their careers. Yet it mattered not a whit that Led Zeppelin gave one of the worst performances of their career, or that Bob Dylan couldn't hear anything on stage, or that no one in the Wembley Stadium could hear Paul McCartney singing "Let It Be."

Today, in a music world commodified by record companies and fragmented by the Internet and radio formats, there is less of a binding connection between artist and fan. The relationship has become one of producer and consumer, and Bob Geldof's eccentricities, which once signified an anti-establishment ethos, now seem to divide him from the people he wants to inspire. Although there is more interest in celebrity culture today than perhaps ever before, you can make a strong case that actual celebrity influence has ebbed. Whereas scores of young people may have explored Transcendental Meditation in the 1960s because the Beatles were doing it, I think you'd have to tax your six degrees of separation to find anyone embracing Scientology because Beck is doing it.

Of course, you can argue that Beck shouldn't be put in the same ballpark as the Beatles, but that's precisely my point. While Live Aid boasted performances by McCartney, Dylan, Zeppelin, Bowie, Elton John, the Beach Boys, and Eric Clapton, Live Earth promises Keane, AFI, Fall Out Boy, and KT Tunstall.

So far the band announcement that has inspired the most publicity for the event is the reunion of Spinal Tap. Frankly, I can't believe that the organizers allowed this through. It is a particularly blatant sign that this genre has "jumped the shark" to the point of self-parody. If the proposed Antarctica concert goes through, this thing really becomes an Onion article brought to life.

It seems to me that if Al Gore is passionate about the environment, he should think about media other than music to get the message out. Maybe he should make a documentary film.

Update on Previous Post: I got an e-mail back from the guy who put his resume on Turns out he's a Douglas Adams fan.


Blogger Enjoy_Every_Sandwich said...

isn't it sad that since uni is out people don't post on your blog anymore?

it is one week to june and it is snowing. i walked to my piano lesson today (it's at the elementary school) and little kids were calling me the snow monster and they looked quite scared.

3:26 PM  
Blogger carsonh76 said...

mr. cigelske, excellent piece of writing. i will be a subscriber to your blog. its a slap in the face to name live earth after live aid brought forth greatness to the table, while live earth only offers second class bands such as fall out boy. what a shame. i hate to see you leave mr. cigelske. thanks for everything you have tought me.


8:05 PM  
Blogger The Hungary Traveler said...

maybe these concerts can shift people's attitude about an issue. by associating "cool" people with an issue it makes it "cool" to support said issue.

9:29 AM  

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