Ross regrets his silence over 'patronising' Live8
Monday 28 November 2005
Five months ago, Jonathan Ross was the media anchorman for the Live8 Concert in Hyde Park where a line-up of famous artists performed to raise awareness of Third World debt.
Dressed in a characteristically flamboyant suit, he interviewed music icons such as Paul McCartney, Robbie Williams and Annie Lennox and spoke of the urgent need to "make poverty history".
But this weekend, the television presenter was sounding a rather different note. Speaking to the singer, Damon Albarn, on his chat show, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, he admitted he was filled with "regret" at not having spoken out against the lack of African performers at the event on 6 July and singling out bands such as Velvet Revolver and Pink Floyd's reunion as part of his criticism.
"It was, at times, very patronising. I could have swapped Velvet Revolver for just about anyone. I can understand why they did it. They wanted maximum exposure in the Western media and to do that they need stories. Pink Floyd reforming gets you an awful lot of attention.
"Other acts were chosen to attract different parts of a Western audience, certainly to get the media attention, which they achieved and which they wouldn't with African musicians," he said.
Albarn, lead singer of Blur and Gorillaz, who has been an outspoken opponent of the event, criticising it at the time for being "too Anglo-Saxon", questioned "what kind of feeling is being sent out to the world when a concert is organised, presumably to raise awareness and the world doesn't see anyone from Africa there?"
To this, Ross replied: "I agree with you and regret not saying anything about it on the day. The [concert] bookers probably now feel the same way but at the time it probably didn't occur to them."
Yesterday, Albarn expressed his delight at Ross's belated broadside at the concert, at which he was such as central figure.
He said: "It took me by surprise that Jonathan was so vocal, and so publicly. But I'm happy with this. With hindsight, more and more people are re-assessing the whole event."
A Live8 spokesman defended the predominantly white, Western bands in the line-up for the Hyde Park show, saying that the organiser, Bob Geldof's intention was to get "headline grabbing shows full of people who fill stadiums and arenas".
But Michael Eboda, editor of the black newspaper, New Nation, which ran an investigation into how many blacks acts had been asked to perform, said Ross's comments were too little, too late.
"Everyone's forgotten about Live8 now. It's a shame he [Ross] didn't say this at the time. It may have had some impact, whereas now, it has very little effect," he said. Other critics of the concert at the time included Elton John, David Gray and even the joint organiser, Midge Ure.
After the negative publicity, the Senegalese singer, Youssou N'Dour, was added to the line-up, and an alternative concert at the Eden Project in Cornwall dominated by African acts, was organised to run on the same day.
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