From Led Zeppelin's Celebration Day to #MetallicaMondays, the best COVID-19 relief fundraisers by musicians online
As live performances continue being shelved, several artists and bands have taken to the internet to organise fundraisers by giving us free access to some of their most memorable performances.
Though the COVID-19 pandemic-fuelled lockdowns around the world have given little reason for cheer, a steady stream of free online concerts has offered music lovers some much-needed positivity. As live performances continue being shelved, several artists and bands have taken to the internet to organise fundraisers by giving us free access to some of their most memorable performances.
From popular artists to prolific musical institutions, many of them have used YouTube and other such platforms to reach out to us, and raise funds for those in the music industry displaced by lockdown repercussions.
Take, for instance, renowned composer Andrew Lloyd Webber’s #TheShowsMustGoOn series. He released one iconic production every Friday, for seven consecutive weeks. These free broadcasts of some of Webber’s greatest works would premiere on Friday (11.30 pm IST) and remain online for 48 hours. In this duration, people from some countries around the world could donate funds to charities supported by Webber that worked to sustain the livelihood of those in the performing arts space.
Starting on 3 April with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the limited-edition online series comprised Jesus Christ Superstar, The Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies, By Jeeves and Cats, as well as a screening of Andrew Lloyd Webber: The Royal Albert Hall Celebration. The opportunity to enjoy stunning, world-class productions and ethereal music from the comforts of one’s home even in India has turned out to be a splendid deal.
By the time we were halfway through April, some unreleased, unseen, or archived songs and concerts started making their way onto bands’ official YouTube pages, some of them serving as fundraisers too, some others simply giving their fans a free chance to experience their music more closely and intimately.
Foo Fighters, unarguably one of the best live rock bands today, have streamed their concerts Live in Hyde Park (2006), a recording of one of their 2006 acoustic Skin and Bones tour shows, and their Live at Wembley Stadium (2008) mega gig as part of their #WithMe fundraiser series. #WithMe supports trusts that work towards keeping the indie venues alive in the aftermath of the lockdown. The concerts continue to be online — unlike Webber’s productions — for fans to partake in at leisure.
Metallica has been doing a weekly concert-streaming series #MetallicaMondays that spans the band’s entire career including one show from its By Request tour in Lima (Peru) in 2014 and a gig in Chicago in 1983 that followed the release of their debut album Kill ‘Em All.
Webber, Foo Fighters and Metallica have carefully curated their concerts, and the quality of the productions can barely be faulted, despite some of them being over two decades old.
The lockdown has brought back nostalgia in a big way, perhaps the comfort factor and the yearning for simpler times playing their part. Grateful Dead’s Shakedown Stream series showcases its best concerts in an effort to raise funds for the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund, supporting industry peers directly affected by the lockdown. Concerts from Foxboro ’89 and Buckeye Lake ’93 to The Grateful Dead movie were over two-hours long and were preceded by unique commentary videos featuring current band members presently stuck at home.
Adding to nostalgia is also Led Zeppelin, that will stream its 2012 concert movie Celebration Day for a limited period of time. Celebration Day was filmed during their one-off reunion in 2007. The band released a statement saying, “Led Zeppelin took the stage at London’s O2 Arena on 10 December 2007, for the band’s first headline show in 27 years and one of the most wildly anticipated concerts in rock ‘n’ roll history. From 30 May at 8 pm UK time and for three days until 2 June, enjoy the concert film of this historic live performance.”
The Dave Matthews Band has launched a weekly Drive-In Concert Series with full concerts from its archives. Each concert being streamed supports a different charity while giving fans a chance to tune in to some of their iconic moments.
Speaking of iconic things, British classic rockers Queen and their current vocalist Adam Lambert have re-recorded their anthem “We Are The Champions” from their respective homes. With small but crucial changes to the song, they’ve dedicated the new version “You Are The Champions” as a tribute to frontline workers aiding in the COVID-19 pandemic response. All proceeds from the song are going towards the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organisation.
While Queen has won hearts with its new gesture, it was disappointing to watch the much-anticipated streaming of their super gig The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness from 1992. Time and broadcasting rights may have contributed to the band’s questionable decision to mercilessly chop the concert down to under two hours. However, the length of the concert can hardly be an issue when the concert in its entirety was already posted by a fan on YouTube, much before the band released their link to it.
One would imagine that despite that if the band is still releasing the concert online, the quality of it would be slightly better compared to a fan video. But that wasn’t the case. Not only did the official link edit out the first one hour and 20 minutes of the concert, they also streamed only those portions of the concert that had Queen members on stage. So solo band performances without Queen were knocked off, and any solo song in the middle of a collaborative set was also deleted from the streaming. For instance, one watched David Bowie with Annie Lennox and Queen perform “Under Pressure”, but this performance was followed by Bowie alone doing his hit song “Heroes”, which was not aired in the Queen streaming link. Did they not have the rights to broadcast these songs online? Only they can answer that. But drumming up anticipation to watch this concert and then cheating fans of some of its best performances is disappointing to say the least.
Organised a few months after the death of their legendary frontman Freddie Mercury, the concert saw the surviving members of Queen performing their hits with a series of guest vocalists; Roger Daltrey, David Bowie, George Michael, Elton John and Axl Rose were among those who collaborated with the band. The first half of the concert — which Queen edited out for their lockdown streaming — featured top-billed bands then in their prime, like Metallica, Def Leppard, Extreme, and Guns N’ Roses.
Pink Floyd joined their rock contemporaries and released their 1995 concert film Pulse and a 2016 re-edited version of their classic 1972 film, Live At Pompeii, over two weekends in April. The latter was active online only for 24 hours.
While the band was doing its bit, former founding member Roger Waters who has been doing solo work, lamented publicly about not finding any mention on the Pink Floyd website. His complaints were followed by his announcement of a digital release for his new solo concert film Us + Them. Days later, Pink Floyd announced “Syd, Roger, Richard, Nick and David — An Evolving Pink Floyd Playlist” promising to feature rare or unreleased music that has hitherto not been made available online. Guess what this playlist debuted with? “Us & Them” (Live at The Empire Pool, Wembley, London 1974), from their 2011 Immersion box set of The Dark Side of The Moon.
“Coincidence” is not a word that is finding support even amongst the most ardent Pink Floyd fans, who are wholly aware of lead vocalist and guitarist David Gilmour’s petty streak. Even in the time of the lockdown? Wot’s… Uh the Deal?
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