Fire Fight Australia, the one-day fundraising event to help communities and key organisations affected by the recent bushfires across Australia, brought together people from all over for an outstanding day of live music delivered by some of the industry’s best talent. The atmosphere at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium on Sunday (February 16) was vibrant, and the music performed was just one pivotal part in setting that tone.
Not only was this event one where acts across a variety of genres were billed – Baker Boy, Peking Duk, Tina Arena, and Icehouse were just some of the Aussie acts on the lineup – but the generational diversity of attendees was striking. Families, retirees, young couples, groups of mates: the worthy cause of fundraising for bushfire relief knew no age limit.
The day’s outstanding performance was certainly that of British rock royalty, Queen. For the first time in the band’s history, Queen, with singer Adam Lambert, performed their 1985 Live Aid set. The stadium’s response was electric, and the crowd sang the well-loved tunes from start to finish. Queen even broadcast footage of Freddie Mercury on the screen, re-enacting the playful call-and-response game he played with the Wembley crowd at Live Aid decades ago, to the Sydney crowd’s delight.
Though Queen were Fire Fight’s huge draw, the other acts on the lineup brought their A-game as well. R&B singer Jessica Mauboy gave a rollicking performance that included her hit song ‘Sunday’, while pop singer Guy Sebastian’s set was seemingly effortless, and closed with the presentation (on behalf of Sony Music Australia) of a $200,000 cheque to the Fire Fight cause.
As revered shock-rock artist Alice Cooper took to the stage, he was faced not with the usual black t-shirts but masses of floral prints. It wasn’t Cooper’s typical audience, but the crowd nevertheless loved the enigmatic 72-year-old. Cooper has presence, a certain command over an audience – one little boy in earshot, confused by the artist and his leather-clad band of miscreants, asked his mother, “What’s wrong with that lady?” only to cry in glee at the close of the set, “Mum, I want to play guitar!”
Hilltop Hoods kept the crowd’s energy up and got the party going a big way, bringing Ecca Vandal and Australia’s Eurovision 2020 representative Montaigne on stage to share in a wild performance. Canada’s k.d. Lang, on the other hand, created a sobering atmosphere with her show-stopping rendition of ‘Hallelujah’.
Fire Fight Australia came to an emotional close with a very special onstage collaboration. Australian legend John Farnham stood alongside Eurovision: Australia Decides contestant Mitch Tambo for a duet of Farnham’s classic ‘You’re The Voice’, in both English and Tambo’s indigenous language, Gamilaraay.
Queen’s Brian May accompanied them on guitar, and national treasure Olivia Newton-John encouraged a massive on-stage chorus of people that included volunteer firefighters in uniform. This act of unity was the perfect way to send home the day’s enduring message of solidarity – one that Fire Fight delivered on financially (by the end of the night, it had raised $9.5million), but also emotionally that day at ANZ Stadium.