Will Lady Gaga's 'One World' be the socially distanced Live Aid?

Philadelphia (tca/dpa) -Is Lady Gaga the new Bob Geldof?

Or, to pose the question differently for those unfamiliar with the Boomtown Rats singer known for organizing enormous charity concerts on multiple continents: Is Gaga's One World: Together at Home the new Live Aid?

That question will be answered April 18 when the star-studded One World concert, instigated by Gaga and presented with the World Health Organization and the antipoverty organization Global Citizen, will aim to raise coronavirus awareness while celebrating health-care workers who have been putting their lives at risk.
The One World bill is loaded with big names. Stars scheduled to be joining Gaga from socially distanced locations include Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Billie Eilish, Lizzo, John Legend, Billie Joe Armstrong, J Balvin, Elton John, Andrea Bocelli, Eddie Vedder, Kacey Musgraves, Burna Boy and Chris Martin. (So far, the bill is light on hip-hop, the musical lingua franca that unites the world.)
In a show of late-night TV unity, the special will be carried live on CBS, ABC, and NBC (but not Fox) and hosted by Stephen Colbert as well as Jimmies Kimmel and Fallon. It will also be streamed on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
The event, organized by Gaga, is by far the biggest virtual music gathering mounted since the global pandemic shut down the concert business and spurred an explosion of live-streamed performances by quarantined musicians.
As a mega concert that corrals music superstars on short notice to unite people in service of a common cause in a time of crisis, One World has many predecessors.
Chief among them is Live Aid, the 1985 benefit galvanized by Geldof and Ultravox singer Midge Ure in support of African famine relief. It was staged at JFK Stadium in South Philadelphia and Wembley Stadium in London.
Coming up on its 35th anniversary in July, Live Aid stands as an event of epic proportions.
The charity concerts drew 72,000 to London, where U2 and Queen played well-remembered sets, and McCartney sang "Hey Jude" into a microphone that didn't work for the first two minutes. (He and Elton John are the two Live-Aid alums playing One World.)
Some 90,000 came to South Philly. Jack Nicholson hosted. Joan Baez said, "This is your Woodstock, and it's long overdue." Madonna, Tom Petty, the Hooters, Patti LaBelle, Teddy Pendergrass, Mick Jagger, and Tina Turner performed. Bob Dylan made an offhand remark that would lead Willie Nelson to create Farm Aid.
The question of how much Live Aid benefited starving Ethiopians has been hotly debated. But even skeptics of the concert's messianic "Feed the world" message would acknowledge Live Aid's success at raising money and focusing attention.
The concerts and their telethon generated 127 million dollars, the equivalent of 330 million dolars today. Philadelphia promoter Larry Magid - who would later work with Geldof on 2005's Live 8 featuring Kanye West, Destiny's Child, and Stevie Wonder - teamed with the West Coast promoter Bill Graham to pull Live Aid together in five weeks.
JFK ticket sales generated 3 million dollars, Magid said this week. "Tickets were 35 dollars," he recalled with wonder. "We sold a ton of merchandise, too. Nothing was free, so we had all the acts backstage lining up to buy T-shirts for their kids and families. Mick Jagger, everybody. I didn't see Dylan in line, though."
More impressive than the amount it raised were the number of eyes and ears Live Aid attracted: It's estimated that 1.9 billion people watched. In 1985, that was almost 40 per cent of the world's population.
Live Aid was the crest of a benefit wave that began in 1971 with the Concert for Bangladesh, organized by ex-Beatle George Harrison at the urging of his friend Ravi Shankar to benefit refugees in East Pakistan.
It featured Eric Clapton and Dylan, and established a template. Faced with a global crisis or seeking to highlight a cause, musicians would come together to help save the world.
There have been many noteworthy efforts since. Bruce Springsteen stole the show at 1979's No Nukes concerts following the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Harrisburg.
McCartney organized the Concert for New York City after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Four years later, Live 8 was timed to a meeting of the G-8 summit, with Geldof _ by then, Sir Bob _ urging industrial nations to forgive African debt.
The message was muddled, but the free Live 8 show on the Ben Franklin Parkway (one of several globally) drew a crowd of over 600,000 - that's 10 times what Made in America sees on any one day.
Gaga's One World event has plenty in common with these noble efforts. It's come together quickly, in an urgent situation. It aims to be entertaining, as well as an informative and inspiring.
At a news conference, Gaga said "my heart is very achy and warm for those who are ER doctors as well as nurses who are sleeping in cars to make sure they don't infect their families or their patients. ... We all salute you."
The A Star Is Born star (who we can hope will sing a surprise, socially distanced "Shallow" duet with Bradley Cooper) also talked about "the singular kind global community that is arising right now. We want to highlight the gravity of this historical, unprecedented cultural movement."
Her strategy is twofold. The singer also made an appeal to the United Nations-led initiative Call for Code asking global software developers to invent COVID-19 solutions to help communities at risk.
"We need you right now," she said in a video message. "Your time, your talent, to use technology and data to change the world before it changes us, even though it already has. ... I have the voice, but you're the tech rock stars."
One World is not a telethon. Gaga said last week that she had raised 35 million dollars from donors, but added, "put your wallets away and enjoy the show you deserve."
One World will differ from all previous mega awareness-raising musical events in another important way _ as it must because of how COVID-19 has so suddenly altered our shared reality.
At this communal event, no one will be physically together, save for the skeleton crews that might be broadcasting the performers from their homes.
The logistics of a charity concert like Live Aid or any festival typically involve assembling an enormous crowd and staggering amount of talent in one place, and maybe even having Phil Collins take a supersonic Concorde jet across the Atlantic to play on two continents in one day.
For One World, the challenge will be to create a sense of unity among musicians and fans isolated around the planet, living in fear and uncertainty.
Musicians and fans have already adapted ingeniously to the coronavirus shutdown in their live streams _ from Questlove's DJ sets to songwriters strumming on Instagram. The revelation here is that intimacy can arise amid isolation when both the performer and the audience are stuck at home alone.
One World is set to be the superstar manifestation of that phenomenon, with acts big enough to fill arenas coming to you in your living room, from theirs.


Tuesday, April 14th 2020
By Dan DeLuca, The Philadelphia Inquirer

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