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Crated By:
Bob Geldof

July 13, 1985. The day the music changed the world.

Any music fan can tell you exactly where they were on July 13th, 1985. There had never been a concert event of such magnitude-the biggest names in music performing in a concert broadcast live from 2 continents to an audience of over 1.5 billion. It is estimated that 85% of the world's television sets were tuned in to Live Aid that day. Now, for the first time on home video, you can own the concert that was arguably the biggest rock event in history-featuring David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Madonna, Paul McCartney, Sting, The Who, U2, Neil Young, and many, many more. Almost one hour of performances on one DVD. Royalties will benefit Band Aid Trust, which continues to provide direct hunger relief in Africa.

Rated NR

Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
English Dolby Stereo
Not Closed-captioned

Runtime: 52 min.
Price: $9.99
Release Date: 7/12/2005

• None


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Live Aid: 20 Years Ago Today (1985)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 5, 2005)

A new compilation DVD called Live Aid: 20 Years Ago Today sure can’t be faulted for false advertising. With a release date of July 12, 2005, the disc hits the shelves one day short of Live Aid’s 20th anniversary.

Of course, Today doesn’t just tie in with that occasion. It also exists to capitalize on the July 2, 2005 Live 8 concerts. And there’s nothing wrong with that, especially since Today should help raise more money.

Unfortunately, I can’t get too enthused about the DVD itself. Today offers a 52-minute montage of performances from Live Aid. 40 songs appear, so you can do the math and figure out that we don’t hear much from most of the participants.

Indeed, only five full or nearly complete songs appear. We hear long versions of Status Quo’s “Rockin’ All Over the World”, Boomtown Rats’ “I Don’t Like Mondays”, Queen’s “Radio Gaga”, Paul McCartney’s “Let It Be”, and Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas”. The remaining 35 tunes are cut down to varying degrees.

Here’s the list of the shortened tracks: Style Council “Walls Come Tumbling Down”; Ultravox “Vienna”; Spandau Ballet “True”; Bryan Ferry "Slave to Love"; Nik Kershaw "Wouldn't It Be Good"; Sade "Your Love Is King"; Paul Young and Alison Moyet "That's the Way Love Is"; Sting "Roxanne"; Howard Jones "Hide & Seek"; Elvis Costello “All You Need Is Love”; Dire Straits "Money for Nothing"; U2 - "Sunday Bloody Sunday"; Bryan Adams “Kids Wanna Rock”; Run-DMC "King of Rock"; Kenny Loggins "Footloose"; Neil Young "God's Great Plan"; Cars "Just What I Needed"; Tom Petty "American Girl"; Pretenders "Stop Your Sobbing"; Simple Minds "Don't You Forget About Me"; Judas Priest "Living After Midnight"; Madonna "Holiday"; Beach Boys "Wouldn't It Be Nice"; Crosby, Stills and Nash "Teach Your Children"; David Bowie "'Heroes'"; the Who "Won't Get Fooled Again"; Elton John "Bennie and the Jets"; Elton John and George Michael "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me"; Phil Collins "In the Air Tonight"; Eric Clapton "Layla"; Duran Duran "The Reflex"; Hall and Oates with Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin "Ain't Too Proud to Beg"; Mick Jagger and Tina Turner "State of Shock"; Bob Dylan "Blowin' in the Wind"; and Patti Labelle "Forever Young".

When I first heard about Today, I assumed it would be a more traditional sampler. That meant I thought it’d feature a single disc’s worth of complete songs. The key there is the phrase “complete songs”, since I didn’t imagine we’d get a package of snippets. Hey, it retails for a fourth of the price of the full package, so it made sense it’d offer a fourth of the material.

Obviously I imagined incorrectly. Today puzzles me since I’m not sure who it’ll please. Sure, it includes some good music. I won’t go over my impressions of all the artists since I already did so in the review linked above. Besides, it’s a waste of time to do that because we see so little of the acts.

And that’s what makes Today frustrating and fairly pointless. If it aired on TV as a promotional special, it might be worth one watch and moderately fun. As a piece of product to own and rewatch, it serves little purpose.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B/ Bonus F

Live Aid: 20 Years Ago Today appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Given the source material, I expected some problems to occur. Those issues did pop up, but I felt pleased with the results anyway.

Since Live Aid took place on two continents under a mix of lighting conditions, a great deal of variety was observed in this set. If I were to account for every change that I saw, it’d take a tremendous amount of space, much more than it’d deserve. Instead, I’ll cover my general impressions of the image and relate a few notable exceptions/specifics.

Sharpness was quite erratic but mostly good. Not surprisingly, the wider the shots went, the softer they became. Most close-ups appeared pretty concise and distinctive. However, quite a lot of the show came across as fuzzy and ill-defined. These concerns crept into the picture with moderate frequency, but they didn’t dominate, and I felt generally pleased with the clarity of the performances. Note that some of the softness resulted from the program’s “on the fly” production; many unclear shots stemmed from iffy focus.

To my surprise, no real issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred. Those problems often mar concert presentations, but they were very minor here. Haloes seemed pretty prominent much of the time, though. They were apparent during much of the program.

Source flaws weren’t much of an issue, with one major exception: rolling bars. These showed up during a lot of the Wembley shots but didn’t pop up for the JFK elements. The rolling bars were apparent through much of Wembley, and they became more prominent as the day progressed. I’m sure these were an unavoidable artifact of the source material, so I don’t think anything could be done about them. Nonetheless, they do create some definite distractions.

As with everything else, colors varied. Usually the daylight shots presented the brightest, most vibrant tones, though those weren’t perfect rules. The nighttime elements from JFK often looked quite dynamic, while a few of that show’s day shots were somewhat flat. The nighttime bits from Wembley consistently looked runny, though, with hues that were too heavy.

For both shows, blacks came across as pretty solid. The dark tones remained nicely deep and dense throughout the day, and the occasional low-light elements offered good delineation. Not a lot of those elements occurred, and most of them connected to colored lighting, which meant the quality of the hues was the most important factor. In any case, no significant issues marred either blacks or shadows. Today offered an erratic picture with a number of notable flaws, but it seemed satisfactory for a nearly-20-year videotaped program.

As with all music DVDs that don’t star Britney Spears, I care more about the audio than the visuals. Live Aid: 20 Years Ago Today came decked out with two separate multi-channel mixes. We got a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack along with a DTS 5.1 mix. The pair seemed identical, as I noticed no reliable elements to distinguish one from the other.

That didn’t mean that the two provided totally consistent audio, as they varied somewhat from act to act. The soundfield mostly remained the same throughout the day, though. The front spectrum definitely dominated the presentation. The surrounds offered crowd noise and general reinforcement of the music, but no distinctive unique elements popped up in the rear.

In the front, stereo separation usually worked well. As I noted, matters became erratic, and a few songs veered toward glorified mono status. Nonetheless, the music normally spread out the instruments smoothly and put them in the appropriate places. Some illogical delineation occasionally created slight distractions, such as when we’d see singers on the left and hear them from the right, but those instances popped up infrequently. Usually the elements spread neatly and landed in the right spots.

Audio quality was inconsistent, but most of the music sounded pretty good. The worst parts came from some Wembley songs, which displayed noticeable distortion. This crept into the presentation during Dire Straits’ set and became particularly rough as Queen played. The distortion wasn’t overwhelming, and it didn’t interfere with most of the show, but the problems occasionally distracted.

Except for these infrequent flaws, the quality was usually solid. Vocals mostly sounded warm and natural. Other than the already-mentioned distortion, no flaws crept in, and I heard no edginess for the singing. The tracks occasionally became a bit reedy and thin, as bass response wasn’t as good as I would have liked. Low-end usually seemed satisfying, and at times the music showed very nice bass. Still, it could have been a bit warmer, and the highs sometimes were a little lackluster.

Given the nature of the shows, however, I can’t feel too upset with the mix of minor problems. Live Aid was a massive production and the various technical issues clearly caused some concerns. Mostly the music sounded more than acceptably clear and distinctive, so I felt satisfied with the audio.

No supplements appear in this set. Actually, we get a listing of the DVD’s contents and documentation of what the four-disc set includes, but the 52-minute program is really the only attraction.

Too bad it’s not much of an attraction. As a diversion, Live Aid: 20 Years Ago Today offers mild entertainment and wouldn’t be a bad way to pass the time if you found it flipping channels. However, it’s an unsatisfying way to experience the music of Live Aid since we hear so little of it. 52 minutes of mostly snippets from a 16-hour event doesn’t do much more than frustrate. If you want Live Aid entertainment, stick with the four-DVD set and avoid this pointless compilation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2857 Stars Number of Votes: 7
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