July 13 marks one of the most important dates in music history.
In 1985, Live Aid was held on the date with an estimated audience of 1.9 billion people across 150 nations engaging in a multi-national concert experience.
The event was organized by Bob Geldolf and Midge Ure in order to raise funds for relief of the Ethiopian famine. The event was held at Wembley Stadium in London with around 72,000 people in attendance and at John F. Kennedy stadium in Philadelphia with 89,484 people in attendance.
Concerts inspired by Live Aid were held around the world on the same day in Canada, Soviet Union, Japan, Yugoslavia, Austria, Australia, and West Germany.
Live Aid’s impact is still being felt to this day as it helped lay the foundation for benefit concerts and the ability of live music to bring us together. On the music front, numerous artists had their careers kickstart into high gear from performing at the event.
Let’s take a look back at 13 great Live Aid performances.
Queen - Radio Ga Ga
This entire list could easily be composed of Queen’s Live Aid set. The sheer power of Queen made them the perfect band for an event of this magnitude. Their iconic performance at Live Aid served as the climax to the 2018 biographical drama Bohemian Rhapsody.
David Bowie - Heroes
If there’s a song that could serve as the Live Aid anthem, it’s the David Bowie classic. “We can be heroes, just for one day,” Bowie sings in the opening of this inspirational tune.
Patti LaBelle - Forever Young
Patti LaBelle’s voice mesmerized the packed crowd in Philadelphia in 1985 and continues to do so every time this performance is queued up online. With her dynamic vocals at the forefront, LaBelle’s set at Live Aid was highlighted with this performance.
Sting & Phil Collins - Every Breath You Take
Phil Collins was arguably the MVP of Live Aid performing both in London and Philadelphia. This collaboration with Sting on a minimal rendition of “Every Breath You Take” may be one of the most beautiful of the event with Sting on guitar, Collins on piano, and a musician on the straight neck tenor saxophone.
U2 - Bad
U2 wasn’t yet the behemoth they are today, but their appearance at Live Aid helped skyrocket them to stardom. The band stretched out their performance of “Bad” from The Unforgettable Fire to over eleven and a half minutes with Bono making his way to the front of the stage and bringing several audience members up to embrace.
Eric Clapton and Phil Collins - Layla
It’s always a treat to hear Eric Clapton on guitar during “Layla,” but this performance is noteworthy because it represents Phil Collins’ second appearance at a Live Aid event in the day. His cameo during Clapton’s set came after he hopped on a plane and flew over the Atlantic Ocean to make it to Philadelphia.
Simple Minds - Don’t You (Forget about Me)
You want a singalong? You got a singalong. The Simple Minds song was the perfect anthem for the packed crowd and still leaves you reeling in the energy all these years later.
Elton John and George Michael - Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me
John and Michael were massive stars already at this point in their careers with their performance at Live Aid serving as a showcase of their musical talent. The performance was so good, Elton John enthusiastically jumped out of his seat at the end to embrace George Michael.
Madonna - Holiday
Outside of creating perhaps the biggest dance party of the day, Madonna paused her performance of “Holiday” to deliver a message of inspiration. “It doesn’t matter who you are, it’s why you’re here.” The song was so good, they went right back into it afterwards.
Paul McCartney - Let It Be
While you can’t tell in the YouTube video, McCartney’s microphone failed him during the last two minutes of this performance. This resulted in David Bowie, Alison Moyet, Pete Townshend, and Bob Geldof joining McCartney on stage for a beautiful live music moment.
USA For Africa - We Are The World
The charity single officially closed out the event with a long list of artists and performers from the day heading out on stage to perform the track.
The Who - Won’t Get Fooled Again
The Who’s Live Aid performance marked their first appearance together since their 1982 “farewell” tour. Although there’s some mishaps with their “Won’t Get Fooled Again” performance, when Roger Daltrey shrieks “yeeeaaaahhhhh” towards the end of the song, it send shivers down your spine.
Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody
Did you really think this list wouldn’t include “Bohemian Rhapsody?” One of the greatest rock and roll songs from one of the greatest rock and roll performances of all time caps off the list of our favorite Live Aid performances.