By Keith Sharp
The Poster for `Fire Aid’ said `Show Goes Rain or Shine – We’re Praying For Rain’. Well it did rain prior to Wednesday night’s benefit concert to raise funds for the more than 80,000 victims of the forest fire which ripped through Fort MacMurray Alberta. Yet by the time Dustin Bentall launched this six-hour extravaganza of country, pop and folk music, the sun was shining brightly.
They came together at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium to support a cause that was near to their hearts. A total of 17 Canadian artists and groups, the majority with a Western Canadian link, performed together for the fund raiser.
“Fire Aid” as it was tagged, supported by over 35,000 spectators, raising over $2 million to United Way for aid relief, due to the performance efforts of artists such as Nickelback, Blue Rodeo, Randy Bachman, Dallas Smith, City And Colour and Brent Kissell.
With a lineup that also included High Valley, The Rankin Family, Alan Doyle & The Beautiful Gypsies, Dustin Bentall, Corb Lund, Dear Rouge, Ian Tyson, Dean Brody and opening act, Winnipeg’s Harlequin, Wednesday’s lineup presented a great balance of country and rock performers. A special treat was the appearance of United Talent Booking Agency President Ralph James, reuniting with his original band, Harlequin.
“It was almost like a Michael Bay movie. it was unreal, there were trees exploding everywhere,” noted Michael Kroeger, Nickelback bassist, , explaining to the Edmonton Journal what his reaction was to watching the carnage that enveloped the Fort MacMurray region. “This isn’t reality for most of us. It was like something out of a Transformers’ film”.
A poignant moment in the concert occured when Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy sang “I had a dream that my house was on fire. People laughed when it burned from “Till I Am Myself Again”. A poignant reminder of the reality of what happened on that fateful Sunday in May.