Support 100 years of independent journalism.

12 December 2005updated 24 Sep 2015 11:31am

Live 8: too late to say they’re sorry

By Zoe Williams

There’s so much to regret, it seems, about Live 8. The organisers of the Philadelphia concert have just launched proceedings against a firm linked to Anna Nicole Smith, claiming she appeared at the event “intoxicated and scantily clad in revealing attire . . . totally inappropriate”. Jonathan Ross has been heard regretting the absence of black artists, calling it “patronising”. At a Franz Ferdinand gig last Saturday, they were still screening that anti-poverty advertorial where celebrities click their fingers to signify the frequency of African child mortality. You were left in McLuhan-esque bafflement where you couldn’t work out what you were supposed to do next (“But it looks like an advert. Surely there’s something here for me to buy?”). I felt a twinge of rage – are we now to be subjected to oblique charitable enjoinments every time we listen to live music? Will classical music be the next to go? Will we have to wear red noses to the Proms?

There is one point lurking at the root of all these carping offshoots: what, exactly, was the purpose of this giant exercise? Is “awareness” undermined by celebrities who turn up in not enough clothes? If there are no black artists, does that ram home the dodgy colonialist-throwback subtext of Africa as infant, as supplicant? And underneath all these questions lurks a fact of embarrassing obviousness – if Live 8 had been raising money at the same time, nobody would care what it all meant. Bob Geldof could pooh-pooh objections with an imperious “Patronising? I’ve given them a billion quid! How’s that for patronising?” The point of money is not just money . . . It boots out all other questions with the force of its sheer tangibility.

Jonathan Ross (awash with regret, it seems) and Annie Lennox have just realised this, and remarked that it’s actually a bit of a shame no money was raised. To which the only answer is, well, it’s a bit late for that now, matey.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. A weekly round-up of The New Statesman's climate, environment and sustainability content.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

Topics in this article: