02 December 2013

"Give us the money!"

Tonight I rewatched the 2010 telemovie When Harvey Met Bob, a dramatisation of the mad scramble to stage the Live Aid concerts in London and Philadelphia on 13 July 1985, and to televise those concerts to an estimated global audience of 1.5 billion in order to raise millions for famine relief in Ethiopia. It's not perfect - Domhnall Gleeson's Bob Geldof is convincingly exasperated, exhausted and manipulative to pull the concert off but watching him do it is sometimes wearying due to the understandable focus on relentless righteous indignation at the indifference of the world to the starving in Africa. Gleeson - the son of Irish actor Brendan Gleeson - holds forth in hectoring soliloquies on poverty that are of course delivered in a pitch perfect Geldof accent, but occasionally the script feels like it's moving from one Geldof direct quote set-piece to another. For some peculiar reason Band Aid and Live Aid co-organiser Midge Ure is never mentioned in the teleplay. But no matter, because ultimately this is a compelling story of individual achievement against enormous odds.

Integral to the success of the Live Aid concert was the tireless work and unrivalled showbiz connections of promoter Harvey Goldsmith, played with aplomb by veteran actor Ian Hart. The relationship between Goldsmith and Geldof is the core of the film, with Goldsmith unconvinced at the outset that Geldof's numerous promises will ever amount to anything, and fearful because his own reputation is at stake. Slowly Goldsmith is won over by Geldof's truculent energy, and they combine to produce one of the greatest live concert spectacles ever staged. If the film is remotely accurate - and it starts with a disclaimer that some of the events depicted were exaggerated for dramatic effect - it's a remarkable testament to both men (and those who worked with them) that the Live Aid gigs were organised in such a short period of time and were so outlandishly successful.

As I've mentioned before here, I can't for the life of me remember why I didn't watch Live Aid when it was broadcast. Perhaps because our TV was in the living room and it would have meant commandeering it from my grandparents, which was unthinkable. I've seen a few clips through the years, like the Bowie set and Nik Kershaw's backstage interview. You've probably seen Live Aid, but not When Harvey Met Bob - so while the link lasts, here's a version someone has uploaded.

[When Harvey Met Bob Part 2 Part 3]

See also:
TV: Bob Geldof studio appeal, Live Aid, 1985
Music: Boomtown Rats - I Don't Like Mondays, Live Aid, 1985
Music: Queen - Live Aid set, 1985
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