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Sound Relief - Sydney Cricket Ground (14.03.09)


Following the disasters which ravaged Queensland and Victoria in February, the worst in our nation’s history, it became clear that we as a community had to join together to do something – anything – to not only immediately assist those in peril, but financially assist any and all organisations which would keep these sort or atrocities from ever happening again – at least in terms of lives lost. And indeed, record-breaking donations have been received from the Australian public in the month since the destructive force of Mother Nature was felt in Victoria; echoing across the entire country.

And such a sound was not lost on the music community, with rivals Michael Chugg (of Chugg Entertainment) and Michael Gudinksi (of Frontier Touring) joining forces to create an event to rival anything Australia had ever seen. Without even considering the speed at which the production, simultaneously taking place at the MCG and the SCG, was put together, one look at the overall lineup sends shivers downs the spine. Bands such as Hunters and Collectors, Midnight Oil, Split Enz, Icehouse and Crowded House – many of whom who had not seen the live stage in many years, and had refused Chugg’s and Gudinski’s many requests for re-fomances in the past, reformed and no doubt re-learnt the songs which made them famous in a matter of weeks, banding together to raise funds for the bushfire and flood relief efforts. Even international acts Kings of Leon (MCG), Jack Johnson (MCG), Coldplay (SCG) and Taylor Swift (SCG) got in on the cause, all forming the day dubbed “SOUND RELIEF”.

In Sydney, the day started off with a spectacular bang – that of Coldplay – who brought the crowd out in the tens of thousands before midday to ensure they’d get a chance to enjoy one of the biggest bands in the world today. And such a prompt turnout would no doubt have looked superb on the TV (as it would have for the early start of KoL). As they did in their Acer Arena spectacular the same week, the band opened triumphantly with Life in Technicolor, before launching into classics such as “Yellow” (complete with the confetti-filled yellow balloons which were nothing but the rage of the last two tours) and “Trouble” as well as new tracks such as “Viva La Vida”. And of course, there was the now-infamous performance of “You’re the Voice” with John Farnham, which apparently was the idea of Chris Martin himself. While Farnham has certainly put on the kilos since we last saw him… naturally looking his age in the process… he’s definitely still got the “voice”. Let’s just hope Farewell Tour V isn’t just around the corner.

But it was in their set closer/encore, “Fix You” in which the band stole the show. In the final minute of the song, Chris Martin – the epic showman he has become – decided to jump into the crowd in the front barricade, outrun the audience who chased after him, and then jump into the arms of those in the back section, disappearing from view. While the band continued to play their respective chords and beats, after a minute of Chris disappearing from view, they paused, with a “oh shit, we’ve lost Chris” look on their faces. Within seconds, however, he reappeared, behind a fence … oh wait, no, he stacked it. More worried looks on faces. Oh no! There he is! And before you can say “how on earth did he make it out alive?” he was back up on the stage, out of breath, in front of the piano, finishing the track. A true showman, this was the moment I think most people will remember from the day… well when the sun was still shining anyway.

After starting the day on such a high with Coldplay as the “17th Support Act for Barry Gibb”, Sound Relief would naturally spent many of the next few hours on a teeter-totter of energy. Wolfmother, followed Coldplay making their official debut with the new lineup by not only playing Sydney, but also making history by playing Melbourne later the same day. And while the lineup had changed, the band still sounded identical to the original incarnation… with the only exception being a new group of musicians meant that there would be very little “experimentation” on stage, as was seen in the later days of the late-lineup. But it nonetheless made for some good times to hear the old stuff live after such a hiatus… even if the new track was, ahem, average.

Hoodoo Gurus and Little Birdy shortly followed, both playing to a diminished crowd as those who arrived early got their lunches and beers for the day, myself included. I can’t say I’ve ever been much a fan of the Gurus, nor Little Birdy, but from the tracks I saw them perform, they definitely made the most of the day – playing to the biggest audiences they’ve seen in a long time – and everything they had into it. Naturally, most notably was the inclusion of Gurus’ “What’s My Scene?” creating a fantastic sing along for many. Although many around me seemed to know the lyrics to the NRL version a bit better!

Architecture in Helsinki were easily the most “indie” band to appear on the Sydney lineup, but their latest hits “Heart it Races,” “Hold Music” and “The Beep” definitely have brought the band to the surface, as well as a group of adoring fans to this gig. Anyone who knows this band knows how much fun they are live, and with the inclusion of their latest tracks into the set list, they are only getting better.

You Am I and Josh Pyke weren’t far behind, each playing to a very different audience… than Architecture. And once again, I found myself being fairly bored by each act. Especially Josh Pyke. I full respect the fact that he’s a decent lyricist, but I guess at the end of the day it’s not my thing. And then again, neither is Marcia Hynes, who came on stage to perform one song, aided by the “Qantas Choir”. Definitely a cringe-worthy moment, only improved by the downpour which preceded and delayed her song. The downpour lasted for just a few minutes, but for those of us in the members stands, it created for some very entertaining viewing.

With no act to distract them, and no ponchos expected to be needed, the crowd started running for cover, while a break in security saw those stuck in the back GA section being given the chance to jump over the fence… many stacking it in the process. While several dozen made it over, the police were quick(ish) to respond and kept total mayhem from taking place.

Dang.

The other international act of the day, Taylor Swift, was up next, and I think it’s fair to say that screaming 15 year old girls LOVE Taylor Swift. The screams were indeed deafening. And her gold dress and guitar blinding. None of this made for a good performance, however, with her over-American sensibility/choreography, and downright ditzy comments causing most of the crowd to pass some confused glances to each other. I suppose I’m being harsh as she IS only 19 and CAN sing, but I still don’t know how she’s reached the level of popularity she has. Nonetheless, good on her for no doubt helping sell tickets to the event!

The Aussie contingent returned in fine form for the rest of the day, with Eskimo Joe rocking out as the sun started to set, and Jet arriving just in time for Melbourne, having done the opposite of Wolfmother. Both bands ran through most of their hits, leaving a smile on all faces… and we certainly began to remember why we loved Jet back in the day. And as their new material showed, it shouldn’t be too long before we hear a new LP.

Toni Collette graced the stage next, speaking about the atrocities, and asking for a minute’s silence. This concluded with a cross to Melbourne, where Kylie graced the stage to present the “Special Announcement” – a video tribute from Prince William and Harry, which was followed by a sing along of the “I Still Call Australia Home”.

And then, just as Kylie had stopped singing, the heavens opened once again, ever so softly at first, with our fingers crossed for a prompt passing. But the minute “Talk Like That” started beaming down from the speakers, the Gods responded with a downpour unlike I’ve ever been dumb enough to be standing in the middle of. Unlike the retribution the Marcia Hines downpour no doubt was… this was something different. Unbeknownst to all of us at the time, this would create a moment and an experience unlike every moment, perhaps also signifying a massive peak in the duo’s popularity.

Young and old, no one moved… in fact people came DOWN from the stands, no poncho in hand, no care in the world for their phones or cameras. It was time to dance in the rain… and in one unified moment we did. While the band, often hard to see and even hear through the rain, tore through favourites such as “My People,” “Yippo-ay” and “This Boy’s in Love” providing a moment of pure euphoria – at least for me, and it certainly felt to be shared by the crowd, most of whom were no doubt youngin’s who were there just to see them.

When we all ran off the mat, soaked beyond belief, there was a grin on everyone’s faces, and the occasional glance and a laugh between two soaked people that simply said “Yep. We danced in the unexpected pouring rain to The Presets. And we liked it.” For many, it was the moment that will define Sound Relief, and be something they’ll never forget.

Icehouse, who I wasn’t too familiar with beyond “Great Southern Land” were watched from a distance by most, eager to dry off and wait out the downpour. But as one of the aforementioned bands who had reformed for the event, their rare performance definitely made a lot of people happy. But the surprise last-minute announcement of Barry Gibb, definitely excited a lot of people – it had, after all, been the first time since 1999 that the expat had graced the Australian stages; then with The Bee Gees in their last local performances.

But I’ve got to say, thanks mainly to the inclusion of Olivia Newton John, it ended up being a bit of an anti-climax. It started out with goosebump-enducing versions of “To Love Somebody” and “Jive Talkin’” with a full band, but then instead of playing “Saturday Night Fever” ONJ came out and they had a couple of duets, Olivia performed on her own for one song and provided backing vocals for the rest. Really, I think everyone would have preferred to have heard “Saturday Night Fever”! Nonetheless, I think it was an appropriate way to end a day of moments and performances that you’d probably never see again. Indeed, Chris Martin and John Farnham are unlikely to ever share the stage again… and I hesitate in saying there’ll probably never quite a moment like that for the “Presets” again. Honestly, I’d pay extra for the rain. Bring it on! With Poncho.

Now I realise this was a long review, but that was simply because there was only one stage – so you really did get to see every single band that was on the lineup… even some in Melbourne with the live crosses between bands. Celebrities such as David Wenham, Shane Warne, Rosso, Kate Ritchie and Toni Collette were among those to also appear in those periods, helping make for a day that never shied away from being interesting. And hey, when you know you’re doing something for a good cause, but having a great time in the process – well you know there are few greater feelings than that. Although, admittedly, Melbourne did get the better lineup!

But then again, who will forget dancing to The Presets in the rain with tens of thousands of others? I know I won’t.