Page last updated at 13:39 GMT, Saturday, 14 March 2009

Australia hosts bushfire benefit

Kylie Minogue
Kylie Minogue performed as MC in her hometown, Melbourne

Music stars from Australia and beyond have joined forces to raise funds for victims of recent natural disasters, including fires that killed 210 people.

Thousands attended the Sound Relief concerts in Sydney and Melbourne, despite stormy and wet weather.

Coldplay, Kings of Leon and Kylie were among the performers. "I'm so thankful I can make it home tonight and share this with all of you," said Minogue.

The star led the 80,000 Melbourne crowd singing I Still Call Australia Home.

Recent weeks saw the worst fires in Australian history devastate the south of the country, while floods hit the north.

A sold-out crowd attended Melbourne Cricket Ground, where acts on the bill include Jack Johnson, Gabriella Cilmi and Wolfmother, with Minogue as MC.

"There's a thing we talk about a lot, which is the Australian spirit, and I believe that it's in evidence tonight all around the country," Minogue told the audience.

"I don't have a band, I don't have dancers, in fact there ain't one feather on me tonight.

Barry Gibb and Olivia Newton-John
Bee Gees star Gibb duetted with Olivia Newton John in Sydney

"But I thought this could actually be my biggest gig ever if you are all prepared... to sing with me. It's pretty much like our unofficial anthem."

Coldplay opened the Sydney concert, claiming to be "honorary Australians". "Thank you for letting us be part of this very special event," said lead singer Chris Martin.

A minute's silence was held for victims of the fires, and messages of sympathy from Princes William and Harry were projected on big screens at both venues.

Bee Gees star Barry Gibb and Olivia Newton-John closed the event. "I think our spirits are always here," said Gibb, who was raised in Australia.

A number of retired Australasian bands, such as Icehouse, Hunters and Collectors and Split Enz, reformed for the event.

Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett left parliament behind to rock with his old band Midnight Oil.

Coldplay frontman Chris Martin - 14/3/2009
Coldplay opened the concert in Sydney with their hit song Yellow

"The music industry coming together to put its hands in its pockets and get itself out on the stage.. is a very, very special day for us," Garrett, 55, told a news conference.

"Naturally, I consulted with my colleagues because I've got responsibilities but I think everybody recognises that it was just a really extraordinary situation."

Midnight Oil shot to fame in the 1980s with politically-charged songs calling attention to the plight of Australia's aboriginal peoples but broke up in 2002 after frontman Garrett announced he was leaving to go into politics.

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