Coldplay were originally meant to play an acoustic set, to avoid a logistical nightmare with setting up their concert later in the evening at the Sydney Acer Arena. In the end, they brought the full backline, plugged in, and rocked.
On an overcast but warm afternoon, Chris Martin and his bandmates arrived on stage at 12.30pm and cracked on with "Life in Technicolour" and "Yellow." The swelling crowd entertained themselves with 100 or more oversized yellow ticket-tape filled balloons which spilled out from the stage.
"We thought, what can we do to impress someone from row one to row 5,000," Martin told the audience. A roar went up when the crowd heard the opening thunderclaps of John Farnham's "You're the Voice" and realized what was in store. Farnham, as had been rumored in the press all week, took the mic with Coldplay joining in support. If there was a single recording which must be released from this concert, this was it.
The band finished their set with the anthem "Fix You," an appropriate track for a concert whose motif is to raise money for victims of the Victorian bushfires and the Queensland floods.
Martin produced a terrific "stadium moment" when he sprinted towards the back half of the SCG, whereupon he climbed a fence and punched one of those few remaining yellow balloons. Hundred of fans followed as the singer raced back toward the stage. There was an odd, long pause when a sidetracked Martin found himself stuck behind a safety fence. He reappeared exhausted some time later, the band having already stopped playing, and rose to delivere the closing lines of the song and the set.
The second coming of Wolfmother was next up, in what amounted to the first public glimpse of frontman Andrew Stockdale's new lineup. Everything about the band looks different. For starters the trio is now a foursome, an extra guitarist giving their sound a turbo boost. And Stockdale's trademark afro has been brought back to earth, parted down the middle and capped with a headband. Wolfmother's music has been described as a throwback to ‘70s heavy metal, now Stockdale has the image to match. The tracks, however, remain largely the same with "Woman," "White Unicorn" and "Joker and the Thief" among the tracks pulled from the 1.5 million global selling debut "Wolfmother" album.
If the concert was about Australians helping Australians, then the line-up was loaded with local heroes from the past and present. A reunited Hoodoo Gurus and Icehouse pulled out a bank of hits, while compatriots Architecture In Helsinki, You Am I and Josh Pyke, Eskimo Joe and Jet all had turns on the stage. Internationals were represented by the likes of Taylor Swift and Barry Gibb, who collaborated with Olivia Newton-John for the final act.
The SCG crowd was in good spirits throughout. Some guests came dressed as the Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles, others kept themselves entertained re-enacted classic cricket matches which have taken played out on this ground, fashioning makeshift equipment using shoes for bats and scrunched up paper as balls.
The atmosphere change when, at a little after 5pm, the heavens opened. But Australians like a party, and the thousands who stayed on the pouring pitch were dancing, and singing in the rain. The storm brought enough of a distraction to allow some opportunistic ticket holders in the back half of the ground to jump the partition and make a break for the front of house, to the delight of whooping onlookers.
The conditions were to get worse. The Presets played their set in a downpour. Lightning cracked overhead, giving the impression the Sydney dance duo had drummed up the whole extraordinary pyrotechnic show. The crowds were in party mode, the hit "My People" enticing thousands to take part in a sort of rain dance.
The heavy storms which hit the simultaneous concerts in Sydney and Melbourne were something of a timely reminder to the unpredictable weather conditions Australians must endure. The Sound Relief crowds faced-up to the inclement weather, and got on with it.