To get the best picture, you had to turn to AOL
Television proved itself to be antiquated in covering the concerts.
By DAVID BAUDER
In Berlin, Green Day proclaimed its majesty with a cover of Queen's "We Are the Champions" as R.E.M. performed "Man on the Moon" in London. And R.E.M. hadn't left the stage before Tim McGraw began singing "Live Like You Were Dying" in Rome.
These were just a few of Live 8's thrilling musical moments that you couldn't see on live television. For the ultimate viewing experience, you needed America Online.
Television seemed shockingly old-fashioned in how it followed Saturday's worldwide concert for poverty relief. AOL's coverage was so superior, it may one day be seen as a historical marker in drawing people to computers instead of TV screens for big events.
Part of it was simply the way things were structured. Concerts held more or less simultaneously in 10 venues are next to impossible for television to get its arms around.
And part of it was also MTV's failure to really try. There were as many commercial breaks as performances, and MTV's stable of correspondents spent more time talking about what a fantastic event it was instead of showing it.
Feed to feed
With a click of the mouse, America Online visitors could jump from a video feed of the London concert to one from Philadelphia, Berlin or Rome. The performances were shown in their entirety. By mid-afternoon, AOL had set a record with 150,000 people simultaneously viewing video streams, the most ever, according to AOL programming chief Bill Wilson.
While AOL could be faulted for failing to fill in users with a comprehensive schedule ahead of time, it offered updates onscreen under an entry called "The Buzz." People watching Kanye West in Philadelphia, for instance, were flashed a message: "Brian Wilson is performing 'Good Vibrations' in Berlin." Or they were told Snoop Dogg was about to take the stage in London.
It was utterly addictive. It tied the event together and gave music fans a reason to stay glued to their computers.
AOL's "global feed" feature offered a chance to catch up with performances that just took place, with little chatter or interruption.
When Destiny's Child took the stage in Philadelphia to sing "Survivor," MTV was showing a tape of Coldplay from three hours earlier in London. MTV also suffered from a maddeningly short attention span: It missed the opening of a Black-Eyed Peas song because of an interview with fans, then cut off the end for a commercial.
MTV simply had too many elements -- interviews, personalities who needed their "face time" and all those performances -- to give its broadcast any sense of coherence.
Overall, the day's events were magnificent in their sheer breadth and diversity. Organizer Bob Geldof promised to deliver "the greatest concert ever, and it was hard to prove him wrong. Most acts seized the moment with magnanimity, realizing it could be the most-remembered moment from their careers.
After backing Paul McCartney on the concert-opening "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," U2 cemented its status as the world's top rock band. It performed "Beautiful Day," "Vertigo" and "One" with ease and power.
Green Day -- whose crowd-pleasing leader Billie Joe Armstrong has a future in Vegas -- had a powerful four-song set. And after being critically discounted in recent years, R.E.M. was intent on proving its strength.
Carried out on a throne behind women spreading rose petals in his path, Will Smith gave a delightfully over-the-top show in his hometown of Philly. Madonna rose to the occasion with a stage full of singers and breakdancers all dressed in white.