Live Aid was a musical touchstone for a generation. Combining the talents of many of the greatest musical stars of several decades, the mammoth concert launched the very concept of the charity mega-show. With last year's four-disc Live Aid DVD release and this summer's semi-sequel Live 8, the legendary show is back in the news.
For some reason, this brings us to the frustrating new single disc release Live Aid: 20 Years Ago Today - Selections From the Four Disc Set. I'm not sure what the intended purpose of this release is, but it's one of the most worthless DVDs I've ever held in my hands. I assumed I'd be getting a sort of "greatest hits" compilation featuring some of the more high profile performances, as a way of making people want to go out and buy the box set. (That edition doesn't include the complete concert either, but it does present at least some of every act in the show, minus the reunited Led Zeppelin.)
This newer release, however, is nothing more than a 55 minute montage of short snippets from performances. That's right, for the most part songs are not played in their entirety. So you get thirty seconds of the Cars dissolving into thirty seconds of Bryan Adams, and so on. David Bowie's "Heroes" is briefly excerpted. Mick Jagger and Tina Turner's famous collaboration is barely shown. U2's starmaking performance is equally shafted. It's unwatchable. I can't conceive of why someone would pay for something like this. It should be a free giveaway at Best Buy or something like that; a sampler to advertise a legitimate release.
The only two songs to play at length are Queen's "Radio Ga Ga" and the climax of the London show "Do They Know It's Christmas?" The Queen song is probably included as a nod to the fact that even in such a loaded field, Freddie Mercury stole the show. But "Radio Ga Ga" isn't the best song they played. Their legendary mini-set featured a medley of their biggest hits. And the inclusion of the excellent "Do They Know It's Christmas?" only serves to point out the puzzling lack of "We Are The World," which might not be a great song, but it should be here.
Perhaps as annoying as the nature of the editing is the fact that the disc is unnavigable. A list of songs is available, but it's not clickable. There is no real menu screen. To add insult to injury, there are only twelve chapters, so skipping ahead means skipping half a dozen "songs" at once. Ludicrous!
All in all, a confusing and poorly thought-out release.
The full-screen video looks pretty good, considering the age of the footage. Some of the cameras obviously had technical problems at the time (banding seems inherent to the source for some angles) and the image has obviously been worked over pretty heavily. The added sharpening and contrast aren't too distracting, and I found that they helped update the look somewhat. But this isn't a modern concert recording by a long shot.
The audio is available in Stereo, DD 5.1 or DTS. All tracks sound good. A lot of care was taken in adapting the recordings for the multi-track mixes and the use of the surrounds is subtle, but effective. The music is punchy and sounds very nice.
Nothing worth noting.
No fully comprehensive Live Aid DVD has been released, and the pattern seems to be moving in the opposite direction. This botched disc is a total waste of space. Considering that it sells for $9.99 on Amazon.com and the full 4 disc version currently sells for $26.74 on the same site, it really serves no purpose. Do not buy this disc thinking that you are getting a concert. It's a hack job and shouldn't have been released.