This post has been updated. See note below for details.
Highlights from four Amnesty International all-star concert tours from 1986 and 1998 will be released for the first time on Nov. 5 in a six-disc DVD box and a two-CD set featuring awareness- and fund-raising performances by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Sting, U2, the Police, Peter Gabriel, Radiohead, Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Page & Robert Plant and numerous others.
The box set, titled “¡Released!” contains six DVDs encompassing 120 songs and 12 hours of footage along with bonus material. A two-CD set will be available that includes 30 performances drawn from the four concerts.
In conjunction with the DVD/CD release, special screenings of two special films will take place Nov. 3 in Los Angeles and Dec. 10 in New York: "¡Released!,"a new 95-minute highlights from the concerts; and "Light A Candle," a 40-minute documentary on the history of the concert series. Police guitarist Andy Summers and "Released!" DVD producer Martin Lewis are scheduled to attend the Nov. 3 screening at the American Cinematheque's Aero Theatre in Santa Monica.
"We at Amnesty have been the fortunate beneficiaries of the passion and generous commitment of major entertainers in helping us bring the world's attention to the human rights cause," Ann Burroughs, chairwoman of Amnesty International said in a statement. "These concerts were a gigantic step forward in the enduring struggle."
Of the nearly 17 hours of video footage, only about 15% was ever released commercially, and that has been long out of print. Proceeds from sales of the box set will go to Amnesty International.
"Amnesty does things that I can't do in my work," said the Who's lead guitarist and chief songwriter Peter Townshend, in the same statement. Townshend first appeared on behalf of Amnesty International in 1979 for the comedy-focused "Secret Policeman's Ball" benefit. That show helped generated interest in the music community for the rock events that came later. "It deals with the specifics of injustice... It makes them public.
"It was 1979 that I appeared at 'The Secret Policeman's Ball'," Townshend continued. "It was amazing subsequently to see what 'The Secret Policeman's Ball' triggered. Quite big names got involved in supporting Amnesty. And it became apparent that big names in music and Amnesty melded very well. It's good to see that what I did kicked that off."
Said U2 singer Bono, who has often cited the 1979 "Secret Policeman's Ball" show for sparking his passion for the organization, "What I really like about it is that simple action that can join you to somebody. Rather than just read about something in the news, you can be part of that news story. I love the efficiency of just writing a single postcard, and connecting yourself to an event that you previously had no involvement with, maybe not even any knowledge of. You connect yourself with another soul, another sentient being, and in that moment there begins a really powerful relationship."
The four concerts included in the set are "A Conspiracy of Hope" from 1986, "Human Rights Now!" (1988), "An Embrace of Hope" (1990) and "The Struggle Continues…" (1998).
Other performers who are featured in the set include Jackson Browne, Joan Baez, Youssou N'Dour, Tracy Chapman, Lou Reed, Bob Geldof, Sinead O'Connor, Wynton Marsalis, Alanis Morissette, Peter, Paul & Mary, Ruben Blades, Steve Van Zandt, Shania Twain, Carlos Santana and Fela Kuti.
More information about the concerts and the DVD release is available at this Human Rights Concerts web site.
Update at 7:38 a.m.: An earlier edition of this post stated that the box set would include six DVDs and two CDs. They are separate releases, a six-DVD box set and a two-CD package.
Follow Randy Lewis on Twitter: @RandyLewis2