30 years ago today I was glued to the TV and Radio. Since I couldn’t be in either Philadelphia or London, watching Live Aid as it happened on television was as close as I could get. I have incredibly vivid memories of that day, some of them reinforced (30 years is a long time!) by the release of a DVD set in 2004. I watched (or listened to, as I was forced to run a 2-hour errand for a friend) the entire thing, start to finish. It was in incredible day that produced some amazing music. Here’s my Top 10 performances:
10. THE HOOTERS
At the time, the Hooters were just emerging on the scene. As they were from Philly, so they were a natural fit to kick off the Philly show (even though the announcer in this clip says they’re in London). They played two songs, but only one of them can be found on YouTube currently. Neither song was included on the official DVD.
“And We Danced”
“All You Zombies”
9. TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS
An American staple. Good, straight-forward American rock. Nothing fancy, but always solid. Don’t have a video of the full set, so I’m including his opener, “American Girl,” only because the cheeky monkey flips a bird at the camera in the first chorus.
8. PATTI LABELLE
At the time, I remember wondering why the hell Patti Labelle was placed in the running order where she was, with all the big “headline” acts. But she gives a powerful performance on both original songs and a couple of covers. Ms. Patti is one of the greatest singers on the planet. Plus, if nothing else, her amazing hair would earn her a spot on my list. Here she is singing the absolute living shit out of Dylan’s “Forever Young.” At the end, she walks around the stage with no mic and you can still hear her. That’s power.
“Stir it Up”
“Over the Rainbow”
“Why Can’t I Get It Over”
7. THE WHO
The street punks are now the responsible adults. But they still know how to rock like crazy. The second half of the London show was living legend followed by living legend. It must have been an amazing thing to experience. Here’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, the seminal classic, complete with a fuck up by Roger Daltrey. But other than, its a fantastic performance. And for the record, if I looked like Roger Daltrey, I would never wear clothes.
“My Generation” / “Pinball Wizard”
Love Reign O’er Me”
“Won’t Get Fooled Again”
6. LED ZEPPELIN
The Zeppelin dudes didn’t want their performance to be included on the official DVD release because they felt it was “subpar.” And it is. But subpar Zeppelin is still pretty damn good. And an opportunity like this doesn’t happen very often. It should be celebrated when it does happen.
“Rock and Roll”
“Whole Lotta Love”
“Stairway to Heaven”
5. JUDAS PRIEST
A powerhouse band that gave a powerhouse performance. Here’s their complete set culled from different sources (based on the difference in sound quality). Priest gave the American stage a sorely needed shot of heavy metal. This clip is the complete set and starts with an interview with Halford.
“Living After Midnight”
“You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'”
4. ERIC CLAPTON
I have to admit that I’m not a Clapton fan. I know a lot of his music, of course, and like some songs more than others, but I can pretty much take or leave him. However, he blew me away at Live Aid. Amazing performance. Three really well selected songs, each performed by a master of his craft and a great band.
3. ELTON JOHN
Elton’s show was amazing. The first song, “I’m Still Standing,” was marred by mic feedback, but after that, it was close to perfect. Because of delays in the running order, Wham! gave up their performance slot so that Elton could do his full show. But Elton invited the Wham! guys to sit in with him on “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down.” There doesn’t seem to be a complete performance on YouTube, so I picked “Rocket Man” because its my favorite version of that song ever.
“I’m Still Standing”
“Bennie and the Jets”
“Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart” (with Kiki Dee)
“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down” (with Wham!)
“Can I Get a Witness”
2. DAVID BOWIE
“We can be heroes, just for one day.” That song and that performance sum up the entire Live Aid day. Bowie is in perfect voice in this show with a great (and very quickly assembled) backing band, playing the perfect setlist. The end of “Heroes”, with the crowd clapping along, gives me chills every time. This is, by far, my favorite performance of “Heroes.”
Really, there’s nothing else that can claim the top spot. Queen was absolutely on fire. The crowd’s reaction before they even sang a note showed that *this* was the act that everyone was waiting for, and the band didn’t disappoint. Brian May said that when the audience did the clap-along in “Radio Ga Ga” it took the band completely by surprise, as it had never happened before. And then the ovation at the end was like a volcanic eruption. It’s absolutely amazing to watch.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” / “Radio Ga Ga”
“Hammer to Fall”
“Crazy Little Thing Called Love”
“We Will Rock You” / “We Are the Champions”