Follow TV Tropes


Useful Notes / Live Aid

Go To
The day the music changed the world!

"It's 12 noon in London, seven a.m. in Philadelphia, and around the world it's time for Live Aid."
— Broadcaster Richard Skinner opening the Live Aid concert in London.

On July 13, 1985, the biggest musical event of The '80s, and possibly of all time, took place.

It was Live Aid, two concerts that took place in London and Philadelphia and watched by billions all over the world on TV.

The idea for the event began all the way back in October of 1984, when Bob Geldof of The Boomtown Rats saw images of the Ethiopian famine on TV, and decided to do something about it. So he called Midge Ure from Ultravox and decided to form a group called Band Aid. Their single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" hit #1 in the UK and all over the world, and became one of the best selling singles of all time.

So how do you follow up one of the biggest singles of all time? With one of the biggest concerts of all time!

During the production of Live Aid, everyone gave Geldof everything for free, including satellite time, lighting, and all the technical stuff.


Many famous stars arrived for the concert, such as Status Quo and U2, but the one everybody remembers is Queen, whose performance at this event is often considered to be not only their finest hour, but the finest hour of live rock and roll music as a whole, showcasing frontman Freddie Mercury's ability to unify stadium-sized audiences and give compelling, charismatic live performances of songs that were just plain fun. The performance also marked the band's UK comeback, following the poor fan and critical reception of Hot Space and a hectic tour for The Works that threatened to break them up; the US meanwhile would still be skeptical of the band until after Mercury's death in 1991.

Of course, not everyone who was asked to appear to the concerts were able to make it. Among others, Talking Heads had put activity on hold so David Byrne could film True Stories, Michael Jackson was too committed to working on Bad to join, Roger Waters refused to show up unless he could front Pink Floyd at the concert (having been in the middle of a legal battle with his former bandmates over the rights to the band's trademark), leading neither him nor the band to show up, Frank Zappa accused the organizers of trying to fund a cocaine-laundering scheme, and Tears for Fears ran into legal troubles as a result of some of their backing musicians' contracts expiring and had to pull out at the last minute (which led to a high-profile feud with a disgruntled Geldof). Still, it picked up enough performers for two simultaneous day-long concerts in two major stadiums on two different sides of the Atlantic, which is pretty impressive in and of itself.


At the time, Live Aid met with a somewhat mixed response. While many were enamored by the sheer size and scope of the event and that it was all going to charity, others criticized it as being more of a way for the big acts of the 80's to stroke their own ego, not helped by many of the performances being marred with technical issues (most notably with the broadcast signal cutting out midway through The Who's performance), some of the performers not being up to snuff for the event (most infamously the Led Zeppelin reunion, widely regarded as one of the worst live performances of all time), and the fact that the Ethiopian government ended up embezzling the donated money to fund their military efforts. In the decades since, however, the intent and effort behind Live Aid have come to be more broadly appreciated, in part because of the sheer acclaim of Queen's performance at the event (indeed, most of the retrospective publicity behind it focuses quite heavily on them), and nowadays the event is considered to be one of the most iconic moments in popular music history.

In 2005, Geldof attempted to hold a successor event to Live Aid: titled Live 8, this event aimed to more broadly tackle issues of worldwide poverty. The event was nowhere near as well-remembered as Live Aid, in part because of faulty media coverage and even more accusations of the move being an ego trip, but still sees some degree of notability for the fact that it marked the first Pink Floyd performance to feature the full 70's lineup of the band since 1981 (and the last, given Richard Wright's death just three years later).

The event wasn't initially going to be on home video, but then came the Turn of the Millennium, and due to increasing piracy and the Live 8 concert coming in 2005, Geldof finally released the concert on DVD. (Some songs are missing either due to copyright, technical problems during the performance, or refused clearances.)

Setlists and performances

  • 8:51: Bernard Watson:
    • "All I Really Want to Do"
    • "Interview"
  • 9:01: Joan Baez:
    • "Amazing Grace"
    • "We Are the World" (snippet)
  • 9:10: The Hooters:
    • "And We Danced"
    • "All You Zombies"
  • 9:32: Four Tops:
    • "Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)"
    • "Bernadette"
    • "It's the Same Old Song"
    • "Reach Out I'll Be There"
    • "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)"
  • 9:45: Billy Ocean:
    • "Caribbean Queen"
    • "Loverboy"
  • 9:55: Black Sabbath:
    • "Children of the Grave"
    • "Iron Man"
    • "Paranoid"
  • 10:12: Run–D.M.C.:
  • 10:27: Rick Springfield:
    • "Love Somebody"
    • "State of the Heart"
    • "Human Touch"
  • 10:47: REO Speedwagon:
    • "Can't Fight This Feeling"
    • "Roll with the Changes"
  • 11:12: Crosby, Stills & Nash:
    • "Southern Cross"
    • "Teach Your Children"
    • "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes"
  • 11:29: Judas Priest:
    • "Living After Midnight"
    • "The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)"
    • "You've Got Another Thing Comin'"
  • 12:01: Bryan Adams:
    • "Kids Wanna Rock"
    • "Summer of '69"
    • "Tears Are Not Enough"
    • "Cuts Like a Knife"
  • 12:39: The Beach Boys:
  • 13:26 George Thorogood and the Destroyers:
    • "Who Do You Love?" (with Bo Diddley)
    • "The Sky Is Crying"
    • "Madison Blues" (with Albert Collins)
  • 14:05: Simple Minds:
  • 14:41: The Pretenders:
    • "Time the Avenger"
    • "Message of Love"
    • "Stop Your Sobbing"
    • "Back on the Chain Gang"
    • "Middle of the Road"
  • 15:21: Santananote :
    • "Brotherhood"
    • "Primera Invasion"
    • "Open Invitation"
    • "By the Pool"
    • "Right Now"
  • 15:57: Ashford & Simpson:
    • "Solid"
    • "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)" (with Teddy Pendergrass)
  • 16:27: Madonna:
    • "Holiday"
    • "Into the Groove"
    • "Love Makes the World Go Round" (with Thompson Twins and Nile Rodgers)
  • 17:02: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers:
    • "American Girl"
    • "The Waiting"
    • "Rebels"
    • "Refugee"
  • 17:30: Kenny Loggins: "Footloose"
  • 17:39: The Cars:
    • "You Might Think"
    • "Drive"
    • "Just What I Needed"
    • "Heartbeat City"
  • 18:06: Neil Young:
    • "Sugar Mountain"
    • "The Needle and the Damage Done"
    • "Helpless"
    • "Nothing Is Perfect (In God's Perfect Plan)"
    • "Powderfinger"
  • 18:42: The Power Stationnote :
    • "Murderess"
    • "Bang a Gong (Get It On)"
  • 19:21: Thompson Twins:
    • "Hold Me Now"
    • "Revolution" (with Madonna, Steve Stevens and Nile Rodgers)
  • 19:38: Eric Clapton:
    • "White Room"
    • "She's Waiting"
    • "Layla"
  • 20:00: Phil Collinsnote :
  • 20:10: Led Zeppelinnote :
  • 20:39: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young:
    • "Only Love Can Break Your Heart"
    • "Daylight Again/Find the Cost of Freedom"
  • 20:46: Duran Duran:
  • 21:20: Patti LaBelle:
    • "New Attitude"
    • "Imagine"
    • "Forever Young"
    • "Stir It Up"
    • "Over the Rainbow"
    • "Why Can't I Get It Over"
  • 21:50: Hall & Oatesnote :
    • "Out of Touch"
    • "Maneater"
    • "Get Ready" (with Eddie Kendricks)
    • "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" (with David Ruffin)
    • "The Way You Do the Things You Do"
    • "My Girl" (with Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin)
  • 22:15: Mick Jagger note :
  • 22:39: Bob Dylan, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood:
    • "Ballad of Hollis Brown"
    • "When the Ship Comes In"
    • "Blowin' in the Wind"
  • 22:55: USA for Africa: "We Are the World"

Works that feature Live Aid:

  • Bohemian Rhapsody features Queen's Live Aid performance as the finale.
  • When Harvey Met Bob is a made-for-TV film that dramatises the events leading up to the concert.

Live-Action Television

  • The Goldbergs: In "George! George Glass!", Barry tries to get tickets to Live Aid and fails, while he rejects going with his mom to a lame Beach Boys concert, not realizing that it was Live Aid all along.


  • The third single from Roger Waters' album Radio K.A.O.S., "The Tide Is Turning," makes reference to the event.
    Now the satellite's confused
    'Cause on Saturday night
    The airwaves were full of compassion and light
  • Anarchist punk band Chumbawamba's first album Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records was, in both title and content, a scathing criticism of the event, as the band felt that all it did was use the superficial aspects of famine in Ethiopia as a form of shameless self promotion.
  • Queen were inspired by the concert and experience to write the song "One Vision" for their 1986 album A Kind of Magic.

Western Animation


Video Example(s):


"Bennie and the Jets"

The song tells of "Bennie and the Jets", a fictional band of whom the song's narrator is a fan. In interviews, Taupin has said that the song's lyrics are a satire on the music industry of the 1970s.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / RockstarSong

Media sources:

Main / RockstarSong