During The Who's set, a red warning light at the front of the stage flashed to alert the band that their time was up. In response, Pete Townshend stepped on the warning light, broke it, and the band played for five extra minutes.
After performing at Wembley Stadium in England, Phil Collins had only a few hours to make another appearance in Philadelphia. He crossed the Atlantic on a Concorde. Collins admitted in later interviews that some people perceived him negatively as "showing off" by playing both venues in one day.
Originally, Mick Jagger and David Bowie had considered performing a duet of Martha & The Vandellas' "Dancing in the Street" with Jagger in Philadelphia and Bowie in London. However, when they realized it would be impossible due to the limitations of the satellite technology, they decided to make a video and single of the song. It became a number one single in the UK, a top ten single in the United States and the proceeds were donated to the Live Aid Trust.
Organizer Bob Geldof was quoted as saying that he felt Queen had the best sound and gave the best performance of the entire event. Geldof was in the booth at Wembley helping to organize the chaos and happened to pause for a moment. He overheard the music and realized that it was noticeably better than it had been all day (technical problems were rampant). He asked, "Who is that?" and the answer was "Queen". He stopped working for several minutes, captivated by the show. More than 60 artists, journalists and music industry executives voted for it as the best live performance of all time in 2005. Guitarist Brian May admitted that Queen had a big advantage over many other acts on the bill because they had become used to playing to huge stadium crowds in the first half of the 1980s, especially in South America.
For several years Bob Geldof refused to release the concert on video of any form. He felt that the concert should be remembered as a once in a lifetime event and only viewed once. However, when several bootleg copies began turning up over the years, Geldof finally decided to release the concert on DVD with the proceeds going to the Band Aid Trust.
Queen rehearsed their performance intensely for a week at the Shaw Theatre in London. Before taking to the stage at Wembley, the band's sound engineer switched the limiters on the PA system, meaning they would be louder than the other acts.
One artist that did appear onstage during the London finale but went relatively unnoticed was Yussef Islam, a.k.a. Cat Stevens. He had even written a song for the show, but due to time constraints didn't perform it.
David Bowie had planned to end his set with the song "Five Years", which was the opening track from his classic 1972 album "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars". However, the day before the concert he chose to drop this song to allow time for a short appeal film to be shown.
Although several bands reunited for the event, one band that was asked to but didn't was The Beatles. The surviving members of the band were asked to perform with Julian Lennon filling in for his late father John Lennon, but they declined.
During Paul McCartney's performance his microphone went out. He said years later that, during the performance, he was thinking of changing the lyrics to his song "Let It Be" from "There will be an answer" to "There will be some feedback, Let it be".
Queen almost didn't perform due to the fact that Freddie Mercury was afraid that their performance was going to be seen as a political statement. Bob Geldof eventually convinced the band that there was nothing political about the concert. He also persuaded Mercury that he had to take part because it would be in front of the biggest audience they had ever played to.
Ironically, despite giving what many consider the greatest performance of the event, Queen's involvement was criticized by the music magazine NME and some other musicians, including Daryl Hall, as the band had recently broken the cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa by playing a series of concerts at Sun City, which had resulted in the band being fined by the Musicians' Union and placed on a United Nations blacklist.
During his performance, Bob Dylan made a statement that some of the proceeds from Live Aid should go to help the American farmers that were in danger of losing their farms. This offhand remark later inspired Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp, who didn't perform at Live Aid, to start up the annual Farm Aid '86 (1986) concerts.
The duo Wham! (comprising George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley) was scheduled to perform after Elton John but couldn't due to John's set running over its allotted time. However, John did invite Michael to sing the lead vocal on his song "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" while he played the piano. Years later, in 1991, John and Michael reunited to perform the song live again, which was released as a single and went to number one in the UK.
London and Philadelphia were the sites for the main concerts, but lots of other benefit concerts were happening all over the world the same day in places like Austria, Russia, Germany, Australia, Yugoslavia, Denmark, and Japan.
The reformation of heavy rock legends Led Zeppelin for the first time since the death of their drummer, John Bonham, in 1980 was expected by many to be the highlight of the Philadelphia concert, but the band were under-rehearsed for their 17-minute, three-song set. Robert Plant's voice was not at its best, there were equipment problems and Jimmy Page's guitar was badly out of tune. The two drummers, Phil Collins and Tony Thompson, had also not rehearsed nor played together before. Page subsequently described the performance as "pretty shambolic" and Plant has called it "a fucking atrocity". Zeppelin refused to let their performance be included when the DVD was released in 2004. However, the band members did decide to donate money to the charity. The band's guitarist Jimmy Page later blamed Phil Collins for the disappointing performance. He accused Collins of not knowing the songs he was playing and "bashing away cluelessly and grinning". Collins admitted in a subsequent interview that he nearly got up and walked off because the performance was going so badly, but he also said Page had made him a scapegoat for their performance. Collins landed the gig with Led Zeppelin because of his connection with Robert Plant, having played drums on his first two solo albums.
As part of Geldof's insistence that it should be a one-off event, the TV companies responsible for the outside broadcasts in London and Philadelphia were under strict instructions to destroy all the recordings of the show. The BBC ignored this stipulation, kept its tapes and archived them but ABC dutifully destroyed its own material. This meant that when the Trust decided to release the concert on DVD, all the Wembley footage was available (including multi-tracked audio), but recordings of the Philadelphia sets had to be assembled from B-roll tapes, the BBC's own copies of the satellite-linked sections and material that had been archived by MTV.
During The Boomtown Rats performance of the song "Rat Trap", Bob Geldof accidentally yanked out the cord from his microphone and as a result the audience didn't hear him sing for a good portion of the performance. This resulted in the song not being included in the DVD release.
Big Country were on stage for the finale of the Wembley Stadium portion of the concert, but they did not perform by themselves on that day, as it was thought at the time that the band had broken up. So when the band showed up on the day of the concert, people merely thought they had come to just show their support for the show. Fish from Marillion was also present on the day, although the band were not on the bill, and he was interviewed by the BBC during an interval between performances as well as joining the finale. He also later admitted that he was so awestruck by seeing David Bowie backstage that he couldn't even go up to him.
Sting and Phil Collins performed two songs together at the Wembley concert after meeting and getting on well during the Band Aid recording in November 1984. Sting provided additional vocals for Collins' song "Long Long Way To Go", while Collins joined Sting on backing vocals for "Every Breath You Take". They rehearsed their performance over the telephone.
Stevie Wonder was invited to perform but refused citing the fact that there were very few African-American artists on the bill and he didn't want to be a token. In fact, he and Michael Jackson supposedly tried to organize a boycott of the event. The lack of diversity for the Wembley bill was also criticized by parts of the British press, with Sade the only black performer to headline.
Bruce Springsteen, who had just finished his European tour for "Born in the USA", was approached to appear at the Wembley concert but declined. He later admitted that he could have done a brief acoustic set and later regretted not performing on the day.
Adam Ant has called the event "the end of rock 'n' roll" because in his view it was the moment rock became accepted by the establishment, resulted in knighthoods and stopped being the rebellious thing it started as.
Although David Bowie was considered one of the highlights of the Wembley bill and stated in interviews immediately after the event that he'd enjoyed it and thought it should become an annual event, he later told Jonathan Ross in an interview in 2002 that, in retrospect, the mid-1980s had been his career low and he'd been very uncomfortable playing to huge stadium crowds of mainstream pop fans during that period.
Pink Floyd did not perform at the event because they were in the midst of bitter disputes between Roger Waters and the rest of the band. However, guitarist David Gilmour played guitar for Bryan Ferry at Wembley. Gilmour's name was not announced as a performer.