Yesterday's broadcast of the Live 8 concerts by MTV and VH-1 proves conclusively that MTV is no longer about the music (was it ever?). No artist's set was shown in its entirety (and most were only 10-20 minutes long); very few songs were even aired without interruption. The set that came closest was the Pink Floyd reunion, where we actually got to see the first three songs complete, then at the height of some intense lead guitar work during "Comfortably Numb" some genius at MTV decided that it was a good time for the veejays to break in with inane chatter, then they broke away for commercials as the song was peaking.
And this was as good as the coverage got, which is an indication of how offensively and outrageously ill-conceived the broadcast format was. After cutting in and out of Stevie Wonder's finale in Philadelphia which was happening at the same time as Paul McCartney's finale in London, neither one getting nearly the airtime it deserved, it seemed like MTV threw up their hands and gave up by cutting to more veejay chatter, pre-taped documentary features and commercials. And while they might have used their two cable channels to offer twice as much music, they wasted this potential by simulcasting the same lame program on both channels.
Many of the great artists who appeared never even got any face time on MTV, including the Philadelphia duet of Sarah McLachlan and Josh Groban, Def Leppard, Annie Lennox, UB40, Sheryl Crow, A-ha, Brian Wilson, CSN, Roxy Music, Bruce Cockburn, Bachman/Cummings Band, Deep Purple, Gordon Lightfoot, Jann Arden, Neil Young (did he even play in Toronto as scheduled?), Tegan & Sara, Tim McGraw, and Peter Gabriel just to name a few. Those who were shown, were done more of a disservice by the fragmented MTV coverage.
As limited as it was, the two hour ABC-TV prime time special at least had the good sense to show uninterrupted songs with no host, and only occasional celebrity introductions of the songs. There was more intact music in the two hour ABC program than aired in the entire eight hour MTV/VH-1 broadcast. That one of the largest live concert events ever was subject to the worst broadcast coverage ever is incredibly frustrating. We're left with the streaming video on AOL.com as the only worthwhile coverage source. Although the technology of the online stream is nowhere near the picture quality of television or dvd, the picture does look good in the three inch window on your computer screen. I guess we'll just have to settle for that until such time as a dvd is released, if ever (and would most likely only contain highlights).
Fortunately, AOL.com is said to be streaming the unedited feeds from all six cities that they broadcast yesterday, free on demand, for the next six weeks. Time to look into software for recording the video stream, at least for the sake of a few key artists. Musically, with all the artists performing in all the cities around the world, the possibilities for greatness were many, but you'd never have known it from the sad excuse for "coverage" on MTV and VH-1.