The first of the Live Earth climate change concerts kicked off in Sydney today with an emotional welcome by a traditional Aboriginal troupe painted in white and waving eucalyptus leaves, and ended 10 hours later, equally as emotional, when a reunited Crowded House played their first show on Australian soil in 11 years.
The group's set stuck to hits like "Don't Dream It's Over," "Weather With You" and the encore "Better Be Home Soon" but included the new "Silent House" about the death of their drummer Paul Hester two years ago. Not even a power outage that shut down the lights onstage cooled the crowd's response.
More than 50,000 people packed the Aussie Stadium on a sunny but cool winter day. Some left early, complaining about hour-long queues to toilets and beer stands.
A message from show organizer/former U.S. vice president Al Gore, standing before the Capitol Building, appeared on the huge video screens to formally kick off the global series of shows. "Thank you for being the very first to launch this movement to help solve the climate crisis," Gore said.
Throughout the day, there were appearances or video messages from former Midnight Oil singer-turned-politician Peter Garrett, actress Cate Blanchett, retired five-time Olympic champion swimmer Ian Thorpe and rock performers Jimmy Barnes, Jet and Powderfinger's Bernard Fanning, offering tips to the audience on how to make an environmental difference. Most of the performers sported black T-shirts with the message Say No To Nuclear Power.
Guitarist John Butler, the green activist who once spent 12 days atop a Tasmanian rainforest tree in an anti-logging protest, called on the Australian government to support safe and clean energy sources. The John Butler Trio wound up a fiery blues-rock set with "Treat Your Mama (With Respect)" a love song to Mother Earth.
The show began with percussive electro-dance acts Blue King Brown, whose $200 video for their land rights song "Water" has been a buzz on YouTube, and Sneaky Sound System, whose debut album went platinum in Australia this week.
Hollywood actress and green activist Toni Collette fronted her band the Finish for a theatrical set, dedicating her song "Cowboy Games" to world leaders and urging activism with a guitar-fueled version of T-Rex's "Children Of The Revolution".
Rock band Eskimo Joe asked the audience to put their hands around the person next to them and move in time to their music, and performed the timely "The London Bombs" which was written two years ago when bombs blasted in the London subway system.
Singer/songwriter Paul Kelly was joined by Butler, indigenous troubadour Kev Carmody and Missy Higgins for "From Little Things Big Things Grow." Kelly and Carmody wrote the song some years back about indigenous workers going on strike for greater pay and taking on the powerful landowners. But at Live Earth Sydney, the song took on a message of making the most of opportunities.
Higgins, Wolfmother, the Ghostwriters (which features two former members of Midnight Oil) and Jack Johnson also performed at the event.
Coverage from Live Earth concerts around the world continues throughout the day at Billboard.biz. For more on Live Earth and the greening initiatives driving the music industry, visit Billboard's Going Green microsite .