Movies

U2, Bono

(Live Aid: Peter Still/ Redferns/ Retna)

B+

Live Aid

Starring: David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Sting, U2; MPAA Rating: Unrated

If you were gonna frame the Live Aid benefit concert as an epic battle of the bands between the U.S. and the U.K., the only logical conclusion would be…we got our American asses kicked. While the folks at Wembley Stadium were treated to blistering sets by David Bowie, a reunited Who, and Queen (who, in a sign of dominance, transformed the hokey ”Radio Ga Ga” into a rousing anthem), JFK Stadium was left with REO Speedwagon, Kenny Loggins, and a famously out-of-tune Bob Dylan. Even England’s finale (”Do They Know It’s Christmas?”) was more inspiring than the limp —and grammatically incorrect (”you and me”?) — ”We Are the World.”

Of course, it wasn’t about competition but collaboration to fight famine in Africa, so we can forgive the weaker moments…yes, even the Thompson Twins’ spectacularly bad collaboration with Madonna on ”Revolution.” This four-disc set cleans up some of the mess, exorcising a good deal of the concert, some artists completely (so long, Rick Springfield, Power Station, and the Hooters!). Then there’s the reunited Led Zeppelin, who refused to be included due to their ”substandard” performance.

Still, there are plenty of moments both scintillating (U2’s ferocious version of ”Sunday Bloody Sunday” made them international superstars) and sexy (wardrobe malfunction alert: Mick Jagger rips off Tina Turner’s skirt!) sure to stir one’s nostalgic soul. And a satisfying hour-long doc shows the global influence of the event, prompting smaller charity concerts around the world. ”I just realized today is the best day of my life,” organizer Bob Geldof says on stage. Almost 20 years later, it still holds up for us, too.

Originally posted November 16 2004 — 12:00 AM EST

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