Never since Bob Geldof swore a streak in front of millions of Live Aid viewers in 1985 has television seen a celebrity jamboree as brilliant as One World: Together At Home.
The Rolling Stones come out of their cocooned palaces via a webcam. Jennifer Lopez delivers a magnificent cover of Barbra Streisand from her own private forest by candlelight. Paul McCartney disparages Lady Madonna from a kitchen made up of 90% brilliant mahogany. Truly, it is an evening for all tastes – musically and also in terms of furnishings.
There are also real moments of joy and stupidity in an event dedicated to healthcare professionals on the front line of the fight against Covid-19. Taylor Swift wins the evening by playing soon you’ll be better. And who could have guessed that the boring American TV host Jimmy Fallon covering the safety dance of Men Without Hats with an accompaniment from The Roots would bring light to another purgatory Sunday?
One World: Together At Home was organized by Lady GaGa in collaboration with businessman Tipperary Declan Kelly. And there is a charming segment on the RTÉ program where members of the Irish audience reveal what they miss most in everyday life during forced isolation.
Lady Gaga at One World: Together At Home, which was held to support front-line healthcare workers and the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 solidarity response fund. Photography: Global Citizen’s One World: Together / AFP via Getty Images
However, RTÉ has also decided to essentially transmit the concert as it was broadcast in the United States on Saturday (we hear at the end the Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and the staff of St Vincent Hospital in Dublin). This contrasts with the BBC which organized its own mini-festival Together At Home, with original performances such as Rag ‘n’ Bone Man singing Blowin ‘in the Wind (verdict: you wanted the wind to blow in another direction).
Opinions will differ on the smartest strategy. There is probably a little too much American stuff on RTÉ. This seems like a missed opportunity, for example, to devote airtime to Amy Poehler interviewing the head of a homeless charity in New York, when we could, in theory, hear from the head of a charity for the homeless in Dublin, Cork or Limerick. .
The joke between the presenters Eoghan McDermott and Doireann Garrihy, for its part, is far from tickling the ribs (my ribs were slightly amused at best). Sensitive viewers will already have been troubled by McDermott’s Lovecraftian horror show vest. In their defense – but not the waistcoat – it must be a strange presentation of an empty studio, with only two low-hanging light bulbs for the company. There are difficult concerts, then there is a famous telethon once in a century during a pandemic.
Irish talent, meanwhile, is absent from international circulation. Niall Horan, Picture This and Hozier of One Direction (who preceded us by giving up haircuts years ago) are rather bypassed by a six-hour curtain lift that you can watch on YouTube.
But apart from Hozier’s hair, what is really missing from the evening is a flash of anger. Some countries have responded quickly and effectively to the spread of the disease. In others, however, containment efforts have been chaotic. It would have been nice if someone had said this: for One World to have its Geldof moment “give us your money”. But this is not the case.
Instead, many glamorous people offer their hope and solidarity. And if their message that we are all in the same boat is now too familiar and bordering on platitude, this is no less true.