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March 28th, 2012
On this day in 1992 the 'Concert For Life' was held in front of a crowd of approximately 62,000 people who filled Centennial Park in Sydney. Staged as one of the biggest charity events held in Australia, and featuring Australia's best musical talent at the time who had all come together to raise money for AIDS and Heart Research at St. Vincents Hospital in Sydney.
This was the first time the park was allowed to be used for an event like this, as they were worried about the environmental effect it would have on the parklands. Since the concert however, Centennial Park is now used as one of Sydney's premier entertainment areas, holding many concerts and cinema screenings in the park.
The Concert For Life was headlined by INXS, who had just sold out Wembley Stadium in London the previous year, so they wanted to be able to recreate that in Australia. Compared to the rest of the world Australia had very few quality outdoor concert venues. This was billed as the only time INXS would perform anywhere in the world during 1992.
The lineup also featured Def FX, Yothu Yindi, Ratcat, Jenny Morris, Diesel and Crowded House. Along with special guest appearances from Jimmy Barnes, Jon Stevens, Kate Ceberano, James Reyne, James Blundell, Deborah Conway and the late Troy Newman who died in 1997.
INXS felt it was important to stage the event in Centennial Park which is close to the symbolic heart of the city, and to donate their services for the important causes. The event wasn't just able raising money for the charity, it was also about raising the publics awareness about AIDS and Heart Research. And in memory of Dr Victor Chang, a leading doctor who was murdered in the streets of Sydney.
The ticket price was kept to just $21 which was great value for see Australia's premier acts performing all day! This lead to a gross income of $1,823 110 that was made, after the expenses were taken out the charity recieved a donation of $608 000. St. Vincents Hospital described the Concert For Life as "a great success in every respect", and despite media allegations of overspending, are satisfied with the final profit. "There were just some real costs that had to be paid".
In the lead up to the event it was hoped to raise up to a 1 million dollars, however it was an overcast day so the concert was down about 10,000 people than they expected to turn up and had catered for. When INXS finished their set it poured with rain.
Certain people in the Australian Music Industry and media used the final figures to get back at INXS's Manager Chris Murphy who was disliked for his success and keeping the band in a bubble which was seen as arrogance. People thought the band should have been on every tv show talking about how they feel about the charitys. They were also jealous of the success INXS had achieved overseas as apart from maybe Midnight Oil and Kylie Minogue at the time, other acts from Australia were so far away from INXS's popularity and success outside of Australia.
So the media picked on any little sign of success, like the fact INXS arrived at the concert in limos, that they had security guards backstage, that they had their own bigger tent, but this was just the normal situation for the band overseas at festivals who at the time even had their own private plane. So it was very much the tall poppy syndrome. "Australian's don't like people to be successful for too long, Australia is very much an underdog country" Michael Hutchence would later say.
The Concert For Life turned into a PR disaster for INXS. Andrew Farriss even had to move his family overseas to escape the attacks. The criticism seemed to be unfair, as what had INXS done wrong? They just raised over half a million dollars for a charity!
If you ignore all the drama that happened afterwards, the actual concert on the day was a great performance! The band had done a couple of secret small warm up gigs in the days prior at Avalon RSL & Paddington RSL. Which is something the band really enjoyed doing. That would lead to the band doing small pub shows around the world the following year as the whole grunge period kicked in.
The band had being recording their new album 'Welcome To Wherever You Are' and broke the recording session just to do the charity concert. So they used the 'Concert For Life' to give fans a special preview of some of the new tracks including 'Heaven Sent', 'Taste It', 'All Around' and 'Baby Don't Cry'.
This would be the only time they would perform 'Baby Don't Cry' live with Michael Hutchence. The band had a 75 piece orchestra on stage to re-create the album version which also used an orchestra. They also got to perform the classic 'Never Tear Us Apart' with the orchestra during the encore.
The new album had to be delayed for months due to the negative press surrounding the concert so it didn't end up getting released until August. But 'Welcome To Wherever You Are' still debuted at no.1 in the UK. The first Australian band to do that since AC/DC's 'Back In Black'.
The Concert was broadcast live on Triple J radio around Australia, not just INXS but all the bands! The concert was also filmed and in July 1992 the media were issued with a 20 minute doco that was directed by Richard Lowenstein and produced by Michele Bennett. This was to be used to promote the upcoming album, with behind the scenes and live footage from The Concert For Life and warm-up gigs. This doco would later be included in the bonus features on the ARIA Award nominated 2-DVD set 'INXS: I'm Only Looking' released in 2003.
The 'Concert For Life' has also appeared on a few professional pressed bootleg cd's. These cd's don't contain the full set however. The full set list was:
Guns In the Sky
I Send A Message
Need You Tonight
What You Need
Baby Don't Cry
Never Tear Us Apart
If you attended the 'Concert For Life' in Sydney 20 years ago, let us know your memories of the day or send in any personal photos you have from the day!
('Concert For Life' Memorabilia from Matthew Marsland's Personal Collection…YouTube videos uploaded by UKINXSFan)
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