Bono seizes his moment of history

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SIX-and-a-half hours before Live 8, the TV set in my hotel room burst into life. A man was talking from behind big, green sunglasses, so you couldn't see if he meant it. "I became the worst thing of all," said Bono, "a rock star with a cause."

Flash-forward to Hyde Park, venue for the Make Poverty History mega-skifflefest, and standing a few feet to the left of your correspondent was Michael Buerk, who once described a famine in Ethiopa as "biblical" in a news report, and inspired all the table-banging and money-demanding which brought so many cause-flogging rockers to London yesterday.

On the right of me was Sir David Frost, looking a bit out of place in his plum checked shirt and cords and loafers among the 200,000 crowd... but the song that kicked off seven hours of big hits and big words was one even Frosty could tap a loafer to: 'Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'.

"It was 20 years ago today," warbled Sir Paul McCartney, backed by Bono and his U2 mates, as the global jukebox that was Live Aid was cranked up for another airing.

The aim this time was to give the right kind of wake-up call to world leaders before they set off for a hard week's G8-ing at Gleneagles.

Then, after a gentlemanly stroll through the Beatles' classic, Sir Paul gave us one last thumbs-up and Bono quipped: "Did that just happen?" Then U2 played on their own. Bono grinned like he knew life's inner meaning, but it wasn't insincere. Then white doves were released over the giant stage and the man in the crazy specs crouched on one knee and explained to us how we could save the planet all over again.

It was a moment. Everything fell into place. And I don't even like bloomin' U2.

The portents for this ultra-gig, it has to be said, were not great. On the flight down to London I took my seat next to a woman who had reached page 7 of a paperback called Let's Kill Poverty. By the time the plane's wheels bounced on to the tarmac at Heathrow, page 8 was still a garden of unravelled delights.

In my hotel overlooking Hyde Park, in the queue for the breakfast buffet, a group of fat American tourists were blocking out the rays from the bacon-griller. "This is the eighth time I've eaten already," drawled the fattest of them. A joke, I hope.

The big trouble with consciousness-raising, like-to-teach-the-world to sing rock spectaculars, is that the merest nibble of a Marks & Sparks wrap in the queue beforehand can appear grossly offensive. Still, M&S, trying to make customer-resistance history, must have been thrilled.

But by the time I finally got into the park - with only glimpses of the bare, spray-tanned bahookies of the Gay Pride marchers to keep me amused - I was feeling pretty peckish myself.

My blue armband gained me access to the media tent, but not the buffet in the corner. "Reserved for MTV" read a sign. I wanted to shout "Apartheid! Apartheid!" I wanted the noted food critic, AA Swill, to use his influence to get me a burger. Hmm, maybe not...

The most glaring example of the Haves and Have Nots, however, was around the Golden Circle. The circle was the VIPs' area where the celebs hung out and drank champagne. In the rest of the park, the masses endured the terror-reign atrocity of a booze ban.

I saw hideous sights in the Golden Circle. In one canvas palace, beautiful people loafed around on pouffes, while those outside had to make do with slightly damp grass. Golden Circle? I felt like I was standing outside the Ninth Circle Of Hell.

The problem for the hacks was finding the right words to sum up something THIS BIG. In the media tent, with half an hour to go until showtime, the familiar rasp of a veteran Scots rock hack was heard to boom out: "If there's a category for clichd pish, Steve, we've won it yet again."

A similar dilemma confronted the groups. The political movements of each generation march to their own anthems. But the 1960s had Bob Dylan and John Lennon.

Yesterday's mega-bill featured Coldplay. Chris Martin held up his band's new album while he burned the midnight oil toiling over meaningless lyrics such as "How long am I gonna stand, with my head stuck under the sand?"

And ultimately yesterday, he struggled to say anything of significance from the stage. Thank goodness, then, for Bono. "It's our moment, our time, our chance," he said, after a storming rendition of 'Beautiful Day'.

"We're not looking for charity, we're looking for justice. We can't fix every problem, but the ones we can - we must."

"Three thousand Africans die every day from a mosquito bite," he said. "We can fix that. Another 9,000 die from preventable diseases such as Aids. We've got the drugs."

Then, to thunderous cheers, he became his most Bono-esque: "Eight of the most powerful men in the world are meeting at a golf course in Scotland. The message to them is this: 'Make history, make poverty history'."

Old hands all make the most of their 15 minutes in sun

PLAY a hit, then split. Don't hang around for an encore, you won't get one. And, above all, don't invite the audience to feel the warmth of your sincerity.

In the ultimate democracy of Live 8, everyone got 15 minutes and generally used them pretty well.

"Hello, we're REM, and this is what we do," said Michael Stipe, an old hand, by way of introducing his band's set, which included 'Imitation Of Life' and 'The One I Love'.

Stipe sported his runaway paint-lorry tyre-track make-up, which must have been appreciated by those over the hills and far away, right up the back at Hyde Park.

Dido followed not long after. I'd like to tell you she was amazing, epochal, but I'm afraid I chose this moment to have a pee.

Then another cover, 'Ace Of Spades', the Motrhead classic, which brought the Stereophonics into the action.

Ms Dynamite kept the trend going with a cover of Bob Marley's 'Redemption Song' before the pleasant piano-pop of Keane.

Travis provided one of the highlights with a strutting version of the Bee Gees' disco classic 'Stayin' Alive', complete with mirrorball-shattering falsetto from Fran Healy.

It was time for another bit of rabbler-rousing from Bob Geldof. "I'm sorry, but I couldn't resist. I just had to play on this stage." The old Boomtown Rat dug out his biggest hit, 'I Don't Like Mondays'.

Madge was angry. Very angry. "Do you want a f***in' revolution?" But this wasn't just anger at world poverty. She was angry at the crowd.

"Is this the Golden Circle? I want to see you people dancing down there." She was picking up a common complaint of the early evening, Johnny Borrell of Razorlight being similarly dischuffed by the lack of reaction from those immediately in front of him.

When the organisers of Live 8 sit down and review the gig, they might regret the decision to allow the most scrubbed fans access to the best places in the park - down at the stage. Often the day lacked atmosphere, and the VIPs - sluggish after supping at the Champagne, Wine and Pimm's Bar near their unimpeded access to the spots closest to the action - could not rise to the challenge.

Madonna battled gamely on, performing 'Like A Prayer' and finally 'Music'. The line in that one about the bourgeois wasn't lost on many in the park.

After so much white, polite, guitary stuff, we were ready for Snoop Dogg.

"Rap's renaissance man" - not easy to say if you're MC for the day Jonathan Ross - was pony-tailed and perky for his stint, but forgot where he was with one of the old-skool hip-hop call-and-response routines at the end. "Whasmaname?" Yes, yes, but yesterday wasn't about you.

It might have been the gig of this year or any other, but not everyone was in thrall to the bands. In the burger queue, a guy is on the phone to his mate.

"It was David Beckham, I tell ya. Right behind me. So I went back and make sure I'd flushed it. Then I had my photo taken with Kirsty Gallagher. You what, have I seen any bands? Nah I've just been hangin' about backstage drinking free beer."

A few comedy turns were roped in for the introductions. The Little Britain girls did a skit and then Ricky Gervais was humility personified in front of such a large, caring crowd. "Thank you, thank you," he said. "Thank you for voting Saskia out of Big Brother."

Lenny Henry told the crowd: "There's a very good reason why we're all here today... we're all scared of Bob Geldof." That's the best joke I've heard Henry crack in ages.

Then he introduced Sting, who had a rummage in his back catalogue for a song with lyrics or even just a title that roughly suited the mood and, from his Police days, he came up with 'Message in a Bottle'.

His next song was stuffed with well-meaning words about public indifference and "the latest atrocity". Unfortunately the tune that accompanied them was Sting's latest prog-rock atrocity, before he redeemed himself with 'Every Breath You Take'.

Pink Floyd buried the hatchet for long enough to play four songs, full of snaky guitar solos, that reminded the audience of what rock festivals used to be. 'Comfortably Numb' was one of the highlights of the day.

Finally, hours late, Live 8 ended as it began with Sir Paul McCartney back on stage - after a wee lie down, presumably - and promising to "rock and roll and stomp and stroll all the way to Edinburgh".

He added: "We hope that the heads of G8 are listening hard. They have heard this today. They can't avoid it."