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Behind the Scenes, a Promise: That Live 8 Translates to Real Aid

June 30, 2005 By:
Jared Shelly, JE Feature
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Larry Magid, at the Live 8 site in Philadelphia
With the global mega-concert Live 8 less than 48 hours away, Larry Magid seemed decidedly relaxed. For the legendary Philadelphia concert promoter who will be running the only U.S. leg of the global event, Magid stayed cool while talking to the press, answering phones and giving directions to his staff - all under the pressure of an ever-ticking clock.

Magid - the co-founder and chief operator of Electric Factory Concerts and veteran of the 1985 Live Aid concert - believes that the worldwide show had the power to persuade some political minds at the G8 conference in Scotland, slated to begin on Wednesday.

"You hope the world leaders at the G8 conference change the trade agreements that involve Africa," said Magid in a soft monotone.

For Magid and supporters of Live 8, the idea that everyday people can influence powerful leaders is a strong notion.

"These things can change the world. Time and time again, it has been proven that you can make change - and make change for good," he claimed. "In America, you can change your life. You can be anything if you apply yourself. Why can't it be done globally?"

The concert, which featured celebrity presenters like Will Smith and Salma Hayek, as well as powerhouse musical acts like the Dave Matthew's Band, Bon Jovi, Stevie Wonder and Jay-Z, could give Philadelphia a level of status among the great cultural epicenters of the country, suggested Magid.

"It brings a lot of excitement and a certain cache to the city," he added.

As for those fans who just come to the show for a good time, with no real thoughts of African suffering, Magid hoped that they realized the real message behind the music and entertainment.

"If that's the intent, and they come here and we're able to change people's minds and their ideas of what is happening in the world and it raises they're awareness of any social issue or cause, then I feel that we've done our job," said Magid before the show.

Back in the 1960s, Magid was a successful talent agent, and in 1968 opened the original Electric Factory at 22nd and Arch streets, hosting acts like Led Zeppelin, the Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix. After the original Live Aid in 1985 - and all his work promoting large and small concerts for so many years - Magid was awarded a place in the city's "Walk of Fame" in 1998.

Deemed a Success?
So, after all the planning and hard work, did he feel the actual Live 8 was a success?

"This morning, [producer] Bob Geldof and I spoke at length. He is seeing immediate results," said Magid when he got back to work on Tuesday. "The posture from the White House and other leaders has changed dramatically."

In response to people who say that huge concerts are not the answer for the Third World, Magid takes the high road: "We just did 10 spectacular shows around the world. I don't think that I should be addressing critics. I'm just a simple concert promoter. I don't answer these questions."

Bringing the Live Aid sequel back to Philadelphia 20 years later was a matter of convenience rather than nostalgia for Magid, who also promoted the Philadelphia Freedom Concert and Ball, with top performers Elton John and Patti LaBelle, two days later on July 4.

"We examined a lot of cities," said Magid in that same quiet tone. "Philadelphia was chosen because it's more convenient than moving a whole staff to another city. We were already set up to produce the Elton John show."

In fact, the wide-open stage on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway was not his first choice of venue for Live 8.

"Ideally, the perfect environment for us to work in is a large stadium. But we were asked to come up with a large, free public space," he said.

And so, he and his team complied.

"We have an incredible group of people here," he said. "It's certainly not just me or a couple others" doing all the work.

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