Big Turnout For Australia Wildfires Concerts

14 Mar

SYDNEY: Tens of thousands of people turned up on Saturday to hear local and international stars at two Australian concerts to raise funds for victims of wildfires that killed more than 200 people.

British supergroup Coldplay kicked off the “Sound Relief” concert at the Sydney Cricket Ground with their hit “Yellow”, while local band Jet opened the show in Australia’s second biggest city Melbourne.

US group Kings of Leon were also due to perform before a sold-out crowd of 80,000 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Specially reunited Australian rockers Midnight Oil would close the concert.

Midnight Oil’s frontman is Australia’s Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, who told a news conference he had no problems swapping his formal role for the chance to rock and roll again.

“We didn’t have to convince the prime minister (Kevin Rudd) or anyone else about us playing,” he said.

“Naturally, I consulted with my colleagues because I’ve got responsibilities, but I think everybody recognises that it was just a really extraordinary situation and occasion that had come about.”

Garrett, 55, and Midnight Oil rose to fame with worldwide hits in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including “Beds are Burning” and “Blue Sky Mine”, before splitting in 2002.

The minister said the Victorian bushfires had been an “extraordinary and at times traumatic experience” for the state’s people.

“The music industry coming together to put its hands in its pockets and get itself out on the stage and perform in an arena like the (MCG) is a very, very special day for us,” he said.

The two concerts are expected to raise about five million Australian dollars (3.25 million US) to help victims of the worst wildfires in the nation’s history.

At least 210 people were killed and more than 2,000 homes destroyed as fires fanned by record high temperatures and strong winds swept through drought-stricken southern Victoria state last month.

Ironically, rain fell in the state capital Melbourne as the concert got underway, but it failed to deter fans, while in Sydney a thunderstorm brought proceedings to a halt for a while.

Sensitivities about the fires gave some of the stars pause for thought though, with Kings of Leon declining to play one of their biggest songs, “Sex on Fire”.

It was also seen as unlikely that Garrett and Midnight Oil would perform their hit “Beds are Burning”.

“I think that you can look at lyrics out of any songs and clearly, there are going to be lines there that pertain to any human situation,” he told the news conference. “But the songs stand in their own right and in their own time.”

– AFP/so

Channel News Asia

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