June 30, 2005

Unsung heroes toil to pull off Live 8 concert

By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Two exhausted men have worked behind thescenes, into the early hours, for eight weeks to pull off whatpromises to be the greatest music show on earth.

Irish rocker Bob Geldof is the most public face of the Live8 concerts on Saturday to raise awareness of extreme poverty,but if all goes well on July 2 it will also be down to producerKevin Wall and promoter Harvey Goldsmith.

Technological advances since the Live Aid concerts 20 yearsago, including the Internet and mobile phones, and the factthat 10 concerts are being held instead of two in 1985, haveadded to the impact and complexity of a media show to rival theOlympics.

"I think that this is probably the most complexdistribution and production that's ever been attempted outsidethe Olympics," said Wall, Live 8's executive producer.

"The Olympics are planned for four years. This we've had toput together and plan in eight weeks," he told Reuters.

"We're dealing in a lot of languages, we're dealing with alot of complexities with satellite, we're dealing with hugecomplexities in terms of different directors around the world."


He explained how the shows would be beamed to televisionviewers in 150 countries, and the involvement of AmericanOnline (AOL) ensures that audiences elsewhere can tune in.

Organizers have just struck a deal with Chinese radio thatcould add tens of millions of people to the global audience,and Wall believes AOL will allow viewers to respond and beactively involved in pressuring leaders to do more to alleviatepoverty.

Jim Bankoff of AOL said his company would be beaming liveimages over the Internet from six of the 10 venues.

"When Live Aid ended it ended, and they packed up the setand it was gone and all we had was our memories," he said."This time when it ends the very next day and for six weeksthereafter you will be able to go back in and catch up on it."

Wall conceded the headline figure of a potential audienceof 5.5 billion people would not be matched in reality, but Live8 is a test of the power of the Internet and television.

"It's much more complex (than Live Aid) trying to have acohesive broadcast of all of the different countries,"Goldsmith explained.

"Timing issues are very complicated, rights issues are verycomplicated, and we've had less time to do four times as much,basically. So we're just plowing through it.

"As far as broadcast is concerned, this is by far thebiggest music broadcast ever," he said.


The demands on producers' time has been enormous as Live 8gathered steam.

The original concept was for five concerts, which hasexpanded to 10, starting in Tokyo in the east and ending nearToronto. Dozens of the world's biggest pop acts will playincluding Paul McCartney, U2, Madonna and Stevie Wonder.

"We're getting 350 to 400 e-mails a day," said Goldsmith,who has had to turn down acts wanting to take part in Live 8."You can't read them all, and everybody wants an instant answeryesterday, which just adds to the complications."

He recalled how Live 8 came about, in spite of initialreluctance on his and Geldof's part.

The idea grew from the re-recording of the 1984 Band Aidcharity single last year and the issue of a DVD of Live Aidwhich Geldof organized to raise money for Ethiopia's starving.

"We were all reluctant," Goldsmith said.

"We didn't believe you could repeat (Live Aid) ... When Bob(Geldof) came to see me he already had 14 artists in hispocket, at which point the show was already there and the restof it came together like a snowball."