In the aftermath of Boxing Day’s devastating tsunami, the world has united in assisting its victims. On Saturday, after a mere three weeks preparation, Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium did its part by hosting a ‘Live Aid’ style concert.
Twenty acts took the stage over a seven-hour period. Cheering them on was a good-spirited, beer-swilling, condensation-breathing (it was near freezing) live audience of 61,000 – not to mention countless others watching/listening on national television and radio.)
Much of the talent was home grown. Neath-born classical sensation Katherine Jenkins (glamorously dressed for a night at the opera) opened the concert with Amazing Grace. Her rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone, dedicated to the tsunami survivors, tugged at the heart-strings and united the audience in its first sing-song, red mock-lighters held high.
Local lass Charlotte Church bubbly chatted to the packed stadium in between singing Fields of Gold by Sting and Somewhere Over the Rainbow, while Aled Jones, of Strictly Come Dancing fame, joked before diving into his classical songs, amid shouts of “We’re walking in the air”. Newport bands Goldie Lookin’ Chain and Feeder received good receptions, but it was Stereophonics‘ Kelly Jones and the Manic Street Preachers who got the most rapturous roars.
Kelly Jones, going solo and armed only with an electric guitar, admitted he was “f**king s**ting himself” about playing, before launching into a fantastic version of Local Boy in the Photograph. As his set continued with Just Looking and Maybe Tomorrow the audience wailed along loudly making him smile shyly.
The Manics were an obvious highlight for the predominantly Welsh audience, as was bassist Nicky Wire’s glam-rock knee-length Keith-Richards-looking leopard-skin coat. From their opening song Motorcycle Emptiness to their closing classic of A Design For Life, the stadium joined in – knowing almost all of the lyrics.
Sadly, the RnB artists, Raghav and Craig David received lukewarm receptions (though better than that of Brian McFadden). Lemar, however, wooed the audience. Kicking off with Al Green‘s Let’s Stay Together, he established himself as a solid performer and a nice guy.
In the pop/rock category, Keane did a wonderful set. (Though bless cherub-faced lead-singer Tom for being unable to pronounce tsunami. It sounded more like chimney.) The biggest cheer, up until Kelly Jones, had gone to Snow Patrol, but it was Yorkshire band Embrace that really entertained the audience, especially when lead singer Danny McNamara embraced the audience (sorry, bad pun) by jumping down to the front row.
Light and fluffy relief came in the form of Liberty X, their song Just A Little getting the younger members of the audience dancing. Ex M People singer Heather Small and Lulu of Shout fame – which she sang – (both seemingly ageless) performed well.
The finale was well worth waiting for: Jools Holland And His Rhythm and Blues Orchestra with Eric ‘Slowhand’ Clapton. Jools was, as usual, on top form, but when Clapton took the stage, going back to his blues roots with Reconsider Baby and Willie and The Hand Jive, the atmosphere became electric.
Throughout the concert, the ambience was brilliant. The hosts – Edith Bowman, Fearne Cotton, June Sarpong and Alex Zane – did a great job entertaining the audience between acts and introducing video messages (ranging from Tony Blair, who got booed, to Bono) and clips of the tsunami – a poignant reminder of what the day was really about. Only the occasional artist promoting a new album/tour and Badly Drawn Boy telling the audience to do a Mexican wave (bad taste, anyone?) dampened the atmosphere.
An encore was inevitable. Acts from the day reappeared to sing Shake, Rattle and Roll – a good ending, made even better by the announcement 1.25 million had been raised. And money was what it had all been about.