Sound Relief Rains Down on the MCG.
An overview of the massive Sound Relief benefit concert in Melbourne.
Author: John Mangan and Patrick Donovan in WA Today.
Date: 15 March 2009.
As the showers that were dousing the last of Victoria’s bushfires fell on the MCG yesterday, a soggy but sated 81,000-strong crowd paid tribute to Black Saturday’s firefighters and its survivors, with a whooping, swaying rain dance in the thrall of some of Australia’s most legendary music acts.
Two of the world’s hottest bands, Americans Kings of Leon and Britain’s Coldplay, played early afternoon sets here and at a sister concert at the Sydney Cricket Ground, but the MCG gig became a love song to Melbourne as Paul Kelly sang about the ‘G in Leaps and Bounds and in a surprise set Crowded House played Four Seasons in One Day.
Split Enz, Midnight Oil and Hunters & Collectors had also reformed on a day during which the Red Cross announced they had, so far, raised $245 million in their bushfire appeal.
The royal family also made an appearance via a video link from London, where Prince William and Prince Harry acknowledged the heroic efforts of the emergency services. “Like so many people, we saw the devastating news from Australia,” said Prince William. “We can only imagine what they’re going through. The tragedy is far from over.”
They were followed by our own pop princess, Kylie Minogue, who, after a minute’s silence, led the crowd in singing I Still Call Australia Home.
In the old days, lead singers of post punk bands were supposed to excoriate the Government. Federal Minister Peter Garrett thanked them, and the media, for their support of victims of the fires.”For the people of Victoria, what’s happened has been an extraordinary, traumatic experience. With the music industry coming together in an arena like the ‘G, it’s a very, very special day for us.”
Question time had not taken any edge off Garrett’s voice, and he was clearly enjoying the freedom to throw his arms around again.
He adhered to the Prime Minister’s policy on public profanity, noting that it had “pissed down with rain” as the band launched into a set including Redneck Wonderland, Read About It, a Jimi Hendrix-style version of Advance Australia Fair, and the politically charged Beds Are Burning.
Hunters & Collectors lead singer Mark Seymour said he had been close to falling over when he first got the call to join Sound Relief. No matter, the group opened their set with When the River Runs Dry, before a driving rendition of Do You See What I See?, the footy anthem Holy Grail, and the haunting Throw Your Arms Around Me.
“You think I’m sweating like this just for fun?” Seymour asked the crowd as they thundered through their golden oldie for the hard-core fans, The Slab.
Split Enz, models of shabby chic, seemed determine to disprove their song History Never Repeats. The Finn brothers alternated on lead vocal duties in a bracket that also included Poor Boy, I See Red and the swirling keyboards of Eddie Rayner in Six Months in a Leaky Boat.
Earlier, concert organiser Michael Gudinski, sounding a little hoarse, struck a patriotic note. “We’re Australians, we’re mates, and we look after our mates. And we love our country.”
The hallowed turf, covered in grey plastic sheets, became a sea of plastic ponchos as Premier John Brumby thanked firefighters from Victoria, interstate and the US. “Over the last four or five weeks, we’ve seen some of the very worst things we would ever see in our lifetimes,” he told the crowd. “But also through that we’ve seen some of the best aspects of human nature. I thank our artists and musicians who have never, ever let us down. When there’s been a time of need they’ve met the call.”
or their part, Split Enz had jumped at the chance to re-form for the concert. “There was absolutely no hesitation,” said Neil Finn earlier in the day. “It was an honour to be asked.”
Finn recalled living in Melbourne during Ash Wednesday in 1983 and praised the concert organisers and technicians, playing down the role of the performers. “We’re genetically programmed to play these songs. The bands swan in near the end, have a really good time playing, and receive undue credit, to be honest. We’re just glad to be here.”
The show was a cross-generational music feast. While Sydney had the pop stars on its bill, Melbourne, considered the country’s rock capital, showcased two generations of rock bands.
The three celebrated groups that reformed especially for the show, Midnight Oil, Split Enz and Hunters & Collectors, had little time to rehearse and risked sullying their legacies. But the vocal crowd helped carry them through their 30-minute sets.
The crowd reflected the bands, as teenagers and old fogeys leant their support to the cause.
Laurel and Don Stewart, both in their 70s, admitted this was the first rock concert they’d ever been to, and that the chance to see a government minister fronting a band was an attraction.
Last weekend, Mr Stewart was in Dixon’s Creek helping victims. “We’ve got friends in Marysville who’ve lost everything,” he said.