Outside the Chocolate Factory

Live 8 was a collision of so many different motivations, there’s been something for every cynic to complain about: that it was all about rock-star ego; that its Anglo-Saxon whitey-whiteness was offensively patronising; that it was a missed opportunity to raise some hard cash; conversely, in a game of bluff and double-bluff and triple-bluff, that the cynics were just whining about a small though admittedly over-hyped gesture that couldn’t fix everything and was never meant to. Maybe a bit of all of those, so choose your cynicism and get ranting.

Myself, I can’t help smirking at the irony of Bill Gates coming on all philanthropic at the same time Microsoft is paying out huge sums in antitrust settlements. There’s something viciously Robin Hood about Gates: crush the competition however you can, make zillions, hoover up art like it’s going out of fashion, get your name on buildings and professorial chairs, then attempt to ameliorate the capitalist doggery by putting on a charitable mask. If he was serious about making the world a better place, he’d: make software that sucked less; make it cheaper to buy; not be such a craphound to competitors. That would not be a small amount of good in a techie world.

I only caught the second half of the London show on the radio, the prime directive of which seemed to be Don’t Fuck Up. I’m sure Floyd were spiffing for the crowd, but I’m just not too sure the world needs another pitch-perfect version of Comfortably Numb, even if it does have Roger Waters croaking along. Robbie, as usual, Got It, and played the throng like bad karaoke, which seemed to hit the spot. To at least a couple of sotte voce complaints that this thing just isn’t done, the Scissor Sisters played, gasp, a new song, and it was the most alive moment all night. Some wanker on Radio One moaned about it not being part of the etiquette to ‘showcase’ something new, presumably because the intent isn’t supposed to be, you know, to sell records. No surprise, but it’s the old stuff that’s dancing out of the shops. You don’t have to be Spinal Tap hoping that people like their new direction to bring out something new in concert and have it fit.

I miss the sense of Being There. I’ve lived in both London and Edinburgh, and both have had a centre-of-the-world quality to them the last few days. I live in one of the most populous cities in the world now, and yet I can scarcely think of a venue here where a Live 8 concert might have been staged. The Staples Center, maybe, or perhaps Dodger Stadium, but neither has the right feel of social space. LA is built not around parks, but around movie studios. ‘The business’ dominates the culture and the skyline with the walled-palace grandeur and secrecy of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. We scrabble for bit-parts and screenplays that might serve as Golden Tickets for entry.

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