Coldplay, Kings Of Leon star at Australian bush fire benefit

Local heroes also turn out in force at Sound Relief

Over 120,000 people have attended the Sound Relief fundraising concerts in Sydney and Melbourne to help aid victims of devastating fires and floods in Australia.

Artists including Kings Of Leon, Coldplay, The Bee GeesBarry Gibb, Olivia Newton-John, Gabriella Cilmi, Taylor Swift, electro-poppers Architecture In Helsinki and The Presets played the concerts, which were held simultaneously at the Sydney and Melbourne cricket grounds. The event raised thousands of dollars, with all of the profits going toward appeals in Victoria for victims of the recent bushfires that killed over 200 people in February, and to Queensland for people affected by ongoing flooding.

In Sydney, Coldplay played their earliest festival slot in years, kicking off the event just after midday as the temperature edged toward 30 degrees. The band opened with 2000 hit ‘Yellow’, unleashing a cache of giant yellow balls and confetti into the crowd. Front man Chris Martin acknowledged how much the day meant to Australians, and said he was honoured that the crowd and organisers had let “foreign bands” be part of the event.

Coldplay’s 40-minute set included ‘Clocks’ and ‘Viva La Vida’, as well as a surprise guest appearance by Aussie hero John Farnham, who joined the band for a rendition of his 1986 hit ‘You’re The Voice’ – which Martin jokingly introduced as “Australia’s national anthem”.

The group – currently on a national tour of the country – finished their seven-song set with ‘Fix You’, which culminated in Martin running into the crowd to sing, but then getting stuck behind a security fence and unable to get back to the stage. After several attempts to jump the fence, Martin was finally able to get back to the front of the stadium to complete the song.

Prog-rockers Wolfmother then kicked off their first public performance in over eight months with a new four-piece lineup, playing a five-song set which included anthems ‘White Unicorn’ and ‘Woman’. The band were then due to fly to Melbourne to play the other leg of the benefit in the Victorian capital.

At the same time, over 78,000 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground were watching Kings Of Leon take the stage, playing tracks including ‘Use Somebody’ and ‘Revelry’, but skipping worldwide hit ‘Sex On Fire’ because it was too “sensitive” to victims of the bushfires which wiped-out entire townships only hours from the city.

“We aren’t planning on doing that song,” front man Caleb Followill told the crowd. “It’s sad because it’s such a big song here, but we want to be respectful.”

Gabriella Cilmi had earlier taken time out from recording the follow-up to her album ‘Lessons To Be Learned’ in the UK to play a set on home soil, while Liam Finn joined father Neil and his Crowded House bandmates to perform a stash of favourites including ‘Weather With You’ and ‘Better Be Home Soon’.

Back in Sydney after an afternoon downpour, American teen sensation Taylor Swift – who’d extended her recent Australian tour especially to play the Sound Relief event – wowed the crowd, including Hollywood stars Toni Collette and David Wenham and cricketing legend Shane Warne, with a four-song set which featured her hit ‘Love Story’. Jet then returned to performing after a six-month absence from the stage, having kicked off proceedings at the Melbourne leg of the event before flying to Sydney for their second show of the day.

In Melbourne, via a live link to Sydney, Kylie Minogue – taking a break from recording of her first Bollywood movie role in Mumbai to travel to Australia to especially appear at the event – thanked Australians for their “generous, generous spirit” before leading both crowds in a moving rendition of entertainer Peter Allen’s ‘I Still Call Australia Home‘. Prince William and Prince Harry, in their first ever Australian address, also told the crowd via video link from London they could “only imagine” what victims were going through and asked people not to forget the “amazing efforts” of the emergency services.

The Sydney leg of Sound Relief was headlined by The Bee GeesBarry Gibb and special guest Olivia Newton-John, both of whom live overseas and had flown into Sydney only the day before the concerts.

The couple held hands as they sang the Bee Gees-penned ‘Islands In The Stream’, before launching into Bee Gees classics ‘Jive Talkin’’, ‘You Should Be Dancing’ and ‘Spicks And Specks’. Newton-John also sang her 1974 chart-topper ‘I Honestly Love You’.

“I was ready and I think the cause is so great – it’s essential,” Gibb explained earlier in the day as to why he’d accepted the invitation to play Sound Relief. “I think we all need to be incensed about what happened and I think we need to care and I think we need to make the statement, so [that’s why] we’re here.”

Gibb added that the fact he’d grown up in Queensland was another reason for returning to play his first Australian show in a decade.

He stated: “We’re both very passionate about the fact we’re Australians and I think our spirits are always here no matter where we are in the world.”

To wrap things up in Melbourne, after Sydney had seen the first live gig by local heroes Icehouse in 15 years, Hunters And Collectors reformed to play a ‘strictly one-off’ set to aid the benefit, before legendary New Zealand art-rockers Split Enz took to the stage with a greatest hits set including classics ‘History Never Repeats’ and ‘I See Red’.

Aussie rockers Midnight Oil closed the rain-soaked Melbourne leg of Sound Relief with their first official show in four years.