Published March 14, 2009
SYDNEY – Grammy-winning British rockers Coldplay and the recently reunited Midnight Oil rallied huge crowds Saturday for benefit concerts to raise funds for victims of Australia's deadly wildfires.
Tens of thousands turned out in Sydney and Melbourne, with organizers hoping to raise $3.3 million. Fires ripped across southern Victoria state last month, killing at least 210 people and destroying thousands of homes.
Some of the money was also set aside for victims of recent devastating floods in Queensland state that left hundreds homeless.
As images of the fire devastation flashed across giant screens at both venues, the raucous crowds fell quiet to observe a minute's silence. Australian pop icon Kylie Minogue then took the stage in Melbourne to address the audience before performing Peter Allen's hit, "I Still Call Australia Home."
"I think that the minute's silence probably says more than any of us could say," Minogue said. "There's a thing we talk about a lot, which is the Australian spirit, and I believe that it's in evidence tonight all around the country."
The Melbourne concert was headlined by Midnight Oil, which broke up in 2002 when frontman Peter Garrett — now Australia's environment minister — left to pursue a career in politics. They reunited earlier this week for two warm-up gigs and took the stage Saturday to deafening cheers.
In Sydney, Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin hopped off stage and ran through the crowd embracing fans after the band's set, which included their hits "Yellow" and "Viva La Vida."
"Today's the only day in the world where we can claim to be honorary Australians," Martin said. "Thank you for letting us be part of this very special event."
"Like so many people throughout the world, both of us have watched the devastating news about the catastrophic bushfires in Victoria and the floods in Queensland," William said.
"For those survivors who've lost someone they love, we can only imagine what they must be going through. For them and for all those left injured or homeless, the tragedy is far from over."
Olivia Newton-John, who closed the night's entertainment in Sydney, said she felt compelled to return to her home country for the event.
"I was devastated, particularly the images of the animals," she said. "It's just shocking, so shocking."