March 14, 2009 / 9:37 AM / in 9 years

Australian stars line up for bushfire victims

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Some of the biggest names in Australian music took to the stage on Saturday for the country’s largest-ever fund-raising concert and to show support for victims of the nation’s bushfires.

<p>Australia's Environment Minister Peter Garrett performs with his band Midnight Oil during the Sound Relief bushfire benefit concert in Melbourne March 14, 2009. REUTERS/Mick Tsikas</p>

More than 100,000 people are estimated to have turned out for the “Sound Relief” concerts, held simultaneously in Sydney and Melbourne.

The concerts took place as authorities said the last of the large fires that ravaged Victoria state last month had finally been brought under control after weeks of fire-fighting efforts.

The bushfires left 210 people dead and 10,000 homeless -- Australia’s worst natural disaster in more than a century.

In a special message, Prince William and Prince Harry expressed sympathy for the victims of the fires.

“For those survivors who have lost someone they love, we can only imagine what they are going through,” Prince William said. “For them, and for all those left injured and homeless, the tragedy is far from over.”

Australian pop diva Kylie Minogue, who flew in specially for the event, also added her support following a minute’s silence in memory of the victims.

“I think that the minute’s silence probably says more than any of us could say,” Minogue said. “I‘m so thankful I can make it home tonight and share this with all of you.”

Among those performing was Australia’s environment minister, Peter Garrett, with his band Midnight Oil, one of three that has specially reunited just for the event.

Garrett said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had been happy for him to take part.

“We didn’t have to convince the prime minister or anyone else about us playing,” he told a news conference. “I said I’d love us to get out on the stage together. The boys were ready to do it, and it was just one of those things that happened very quickly.”

COLDPLAY

The event was opened by British pop group Coldplay, currently on tour in Australia.

Others scheduled to take part included Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees and Olivia Newton-John.

“I shall be there with wings on my heels to help in any way I can the victims of this terrible disaster, let’s make it count for all of them,” Gibb said in a statement.

Ticket agency Ticketek said the event at Melbourne Cricket Ground was sold out with 79,000 people paying $75 a ticket, making it Australia’s biggest paid concert, topping the previous record crowd of nearly 75,000 for Guns n’ Roses in 1993.

A crowd of 40,000 was expected at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

“It’s just an amazing result,” Michael Gudinski of Frontier Touring Company said in a statement.

“It’s truly impressive how much the Australian public has gotten behind this. It speaks volumes of the passion of our great country - helping a mate in trouble.”

Other bands reuniting for the day include Split Enz, and Hunters and Collectors.

The Melbourne line-up also included U.S. singer Jack Johnson, Augie March, Gabriella Cilmi, Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson with Troy Cassar-Daley, Liam Finn, Paul Kelly, Wolfmother and Bliss N Eso with Paris Wells.

The Sydney concert featured The Presets, Josh Pyke, Eskimo Joe, The Hoodoo Gurus, Jet, Icehouse, Little Birdy, You Am I and the Midnight Juggernauts.

All profits from the Melbourne show will go to the Red Cross Victorian Bushfire Appeal to help victims of the fires while the Sydney funds will be split between the bushfire appeal and a fund for flood victims in Queensland.

Additional reporting by Belinda Goldsmith; Editing by Giles Elgood

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