Prior to swearing himself in as “President of Venezuela” on the 23rd of January, the wider world had never heard of Juan Guaidó and even in Venezuela he was less than a household name prior to the events of last month. This all changed when the United States recognised the self-appointed “leader” as the real deal, even though the United Nations continues to only recognise the government led by President Nicolas Maduro.
This is why it was automatically suspect when on the 14th of February, Virgin founder Richard Branson announced that he was staging a “Live Aid style” concert on the Colombian border with Venezuela. Anyone who knows anything about such mass multi-act concerts realises that such events typically take half a year to organise. Thus, the idea that such a concert could be organised so spontaneously, immediately invited speculation as to whether the entire thing might have secretly been planed weeks or even months before Guaidó appointed himself “president”.
Adding further controversy to the matter was the fact that Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper announced that Peter Gabriel was to perform at the concert. Seeing as none of the other artists have a reputation in the wider English language international pop/rock music scene, a performance by Gabriel would have immediately raised awareness of and hence would have helped to legitimise a concert that Brandon claimed was being organised by Guaidó himself – a man openly calling for the overthrow of a UN recognised government.
Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters took to social media to denounce Branson and the concept of the concert while restating his own position of support for peace and for the rule of law to be upheld in Venezuela. Waters also asked that Peter Gabriel get in touch with him so that Gabriel could ostensibly be “talked out” of using his music to legitimising Guaidó.
The Red Cross and the UN, unequivocally agree, don’t politicize aid. Leave the Venezuelan people alone to exercise their legal right to self determination. pic.twitter.com/I0yS3u75b6
— Roger Waters (@rogerwaters) February 18, 2019
While multiple media outlets continued to state that Gabriel would be the concert’s lone internationally renowned performer, Gabriel did not show up to the concert. Days before the concert, a fan website dedicated to the band Genesis (which Gabriel co-founded in 1967), confirmed that Gabriel would not in fact perform.
And yet the hype surrounding a possible performance by Gabriel continued to make waves due to the fact that most non-Spanish speakers had never heard of most of the acts that Branson and Guaidó recruited.
The concert’s full Youtube video currently has 669,434 views as of 23 February at midday GMT. By contrast, a video of Queen’s full performance from Live Aid has nearly 21 million views, whilst a 2013 upload of Pink Floyd’s reunion at the 2005 Live 8 concert has over 5.3 million views.
While the Guaidó/Branson concert will likely gain more views overtime, it still has quite a ways to go to match famous performances at other large concert events.
It remains unclear whether Gabriel was contacted about performing and turned the gig down, whether he was even approached at all or whether he backed out at the last minute after Roger Waters appealed to him to take a second look at what the concert was promoting. It is however noteworthy that at no time was the concert ever mentioned in any way on Gabrie’s website nor on his generally active Twitter account.
In this sense, neither Branson’s concert nor a rival concert staged in Venezuela with the blessing of the legitimate government featured globally renowned acts. Taken as a whole, Branson’s concert appears to have failed in its mission of galvanising global opinion against the legitimate government of Venezuela.