'We won't get a better chance to change the
6th July 2005
NME brings together
Live8's Bono, Johnny Borrell and Brandon Flowers for the ultimate
In a few hours' time Bono will be performing in front of
an audience of almost three billion. A noisy 150,000 will be cramming into Hyde
Park, a further 55,000 will be watching on giant screens, while the remaining
billions will be tuning in the globe over. Right now though Bono is making his
final preparations for his band's set which will open the London concert. To
Bono's left is Johnny Borrell. Dressed all in white, the Razorlight frontman
bounces from foot to foot with energy. To his right, also dressed head-to-toe in
white, is Killers frontman Brandon Flowers.
Bono, of course, is Bono. Coolly leaning back discussing tour tactics and asking
exactly how muddy Glastonbury was. The three of them have all gathered at NME's
behest to discuss exactly what the day will mean for them and the world in
general. Among them there's a sense that history might even change - plus
there's the blindingly obvious feeling that here stands a trio of the greatest
rock frontmen on the planet right now. "The three greatest bands on the planet,
for the headline?" Bono jokes to NME. "Well, the three greatest bands in
this room then?"
Are you all set for today?
Johnny Borrell: "I know why I'm doing it, but I don't know what I'm
playing yet. Ten minutes is tricky; it's not quite three songs and it's slightly
more than two."
Bono: "Yep, I'm spiritually ready for it, I'm not quite sure mentally.
We've got this thing happening with Macca, which is really just off the map. The
truth be told, Geldof only agreed to this six weeks ago. He didn't want to do
Live8 unless he came up with something original - he found that with the eight
cities and the moving from charity to justice - but the thing that pushed him
over the edge, he told me, was how we would open the show. I sold him the idea
of Paul McCartney walking out and going [sings] 'It was 20 years ago
today' - that's when Geldof stopped telling me to fuck off."
JB: "Do you want a tamborine player for that?"
B: "We should! The original idea was to make a live version of the cover
of 'Sgt Pepper's' onstage, but Macca wants to keep it simple. It's really
exciting, but those tunes are difficult! The Edge said to me 'You agreed to do
what?!', but doing 'Sgt Pepper's' is the biggest honour of our lives as
Brandon Flowers: "We're all set. We're going to play one song, probably
'All These Things That I've Done' and we're excited about it."
B: "The struggle was getting hip-hop on. I rang Jay-Z and said, 'It's an
emergency!' He said, 'What, Africa?' and I said 'No, it's poodle-headed rock
bands! We need hip-hop' and he said, 'I'm in!' It was so important for us to
have what's really happening right now in rock'n'roll - and that's these two
bands [points at Johnny and Brandon] - and what's happening in hip-hop."
Do you remember the original Live Aid, what were you all doing that day?
BF: "I was in a diaper!"
JB: "I was..."
B: "Playing with your train set?"
JB: "Yeah! I remember my mum going on about Bob Geldof a lot."
B: "I try to forget it because a man should not look like he's had his
hair ironed - the mullet! It spoiled one of the greatest moments of my life and
let that be a lesson to you young people."
What difference can we make this time around?
B: "It's what it's already done. In one sense the threat of it."
JB: "From the moment I heard about this I just had to do it, because we
won't get a better chance to change the world than now, you know!"
B: "Promises are easy. If we get them signing on in a very public way,
it's very hard to back out. Politicians have to see momentum. In a way we have
to give them permission to spend our money. It's not about putting your hands in
you pockets, it's about putting your fists in the air and saying, 'This is
really important to us'. It's amazing that you're getting a Republican president
and a Labour prime minister working with the French and the Germans, trying to
do this because they fear something. It's the thread of Live8! The last push is
in the next few days, but it's already accomplished so much."
JB: "Tony Blair and George Bush have a lot to make up for [after Iraq]."
B: "Whether you agree with the war or not - and I was against it - it is
clear that you can't win the war against terror without winning the war against
poverty. I didn't say that - Colin Powell, a military man, said that!"
Brandon, you said it's not really about politics but being human.
BF: "Me and Johnny aren't involved in it so much as Bono. We get up there
as humans, rather than as rock bands. We're just doing what we can."
JB: "Absolutely! I don't understand how anyone with a conscience wouldn't
get involved. Somebody asked me if I was worried about losing credibility
appearing with old rock stars. I said, 'Do you even think that entered my mind
for a second?' Imagine I went to Africa and went, 'I know you're dying but I
don't think it would look good'. Fuck that! I really hope, come the G8 summit,
that we'll see something happen because it's a fucked-up world!"
B: "Exactly. Rock'n'roll has always been about change of some kind, even
if it's just changing your shoes [laughs]. I liked that Johnny said it's
a fucked-up world because if you don't say that then you accept this as
How do you get that message across?
B: "The thing is not to be a boring cunt, 'cos that's the first rule of
rock'n'roll. I know I step across that line every so often and you can't. Real
change comes about in people's hearts and minds and that's where music is so
JB: "Well, people can't dance to speeches."
B: "Believe me I've tried!"
And with that rock's three wise men set off to make poverty history.