Tens of thousands of people braved heavy rain and thunder Saturday night to see Paul McCartney perform a charity concert Saturday night on Kiev's central Independence Square.

The outdoor show, the first in Ukraine for the former Beatle, was billed as the biggest concert ever in the former Soviet republic. It was also broadcast live on national television and on giant screens set up in five other Ukrainian cities.

After a half-hour delay because of the weather, McCartney came out on the stage and greeted the crowd in Ukrainian, before diving into the Beatles hit "Drive My Car."

"I'm really looking forward to it. Every time I speak to someone who has been to Kiev before they keep telling me what a great place it is with lots of history," McCartney, who turns 66 next week, said in an interview posted on a concert Web site before the show.

Before the concert, fans in five major cities in Ukraine sang Beatles songs in a live TV linkup with the capital.

The square where McCartney played was the site of the Orange Revolution in 2004, when peaceful mass protests overturned a fraudulent election and brought a pro-Western opposition leader to power.

Organizers said the money raised will be spent on diagnostic equipment for the children's department of Ukraine's National Cancer Institute. Many children now seek treatment abroad because Ukraine lacks the necessary equipment.

The concert is free but the organizers are asking for donations from Ukrainian businessmen and others. More than 500 people have contributed a total of about $600,000 and donations are continuing to come in, said Tatyana Overina, spokeswoman for the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, which organized the concert.

Pinchuk, a billionaire businessman and Ukraine's richest man, established the foundation in 2006 with the stated goal of contributing to the modernization of Ukraine and bringing forward a new generation of Ukrainian leaders.