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Live 8, Poetry and Enthusiasm

The Live 8 concert in Hyde Park was audible from my flat, but I watched it on TV. I'm not a big concert goer (though a music fan) and so was surprised by how inspiring it was. Many informed critics of the event (such as George Monbiot) had suggested it was frivolous, futile or worse, but it seemed an impressive consciousness-raising effort with very few harmful side-effects.

There's a natural mistrust of millionaire rock star celebrities in the media and in the outlying plains where the rest of us feed, but one thing was striking - as band after band, singer after after act, got up, did their one or two or three songs, and got off (like WWI fighters going over the top) - these people earn their keep. The professionalism of the entertainers was marvelous to behold.

There's a reason why U2, (Sir) Paul McCartney, Madonna, Sting, Robbie Williams and co. are loved by hundreds of millions: they make us feel good, if only briefly, with not much else than the sound of their voices, and the sway of their bodies. In this sense, the ten-hour concert (reputed to be the biggest global event in human history, which seems to leave out The Flood and the fall of Rome) was Dionysian pleasure at its best - a civic, even quasi-political event, yes, but saturated with the wilder enjoyments that only a form of poesis can offer. For our age, these stars are our poets.

Now, that may be sad for a number of reasons - not least of which is the fact that better poetry is written and published by those who are not rock acts - and there is also the argument that there are pleasures only acquired in silent contemplation, or small gatherings (such as I facilitate via Oxfam's readings) - but as it stands, the performers we have in our world, at this time, are of a golden age, and future generations will marvel that one stage held McCartney to Madonna.

For me, the highlights were often unexpected, even at times comic. Having Bill Gates intro Dido was one of the most absurd anti-climaxes in history: why not have the world's richest man intro the world's best band, U2, for instance, instead of a mediocre talent?

Michael Stipe of REM was the best frontman of the night, regardless of his church fete make-up, other than The Killer's Brandon Flowers, whose clean-cut All-American charisma, height and youth reminded me of a young Orson Welles. Forgive me for this, but Keane are a good band, and their lead singer sure can belt it out. It was also moving to see Pink Floyd reunited. And Madonna is a kind of FemmElvis of our age - she is the consummate performer.

What is it about the British media, however? The running commentary from a host of comedians and comperes was sarcastic, trivializing, and at times actually insulting - what's wrong with a little enthusiastic appreciation of a good time for a change?
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