Since Australia is participating in the Eurovision Song Contest these days, when you win, you might even get the chance to perform in the Sydney Opera House. This happened to world famous drag act Conchita Wurst, who brought the victory to Austria in 2014 when her song ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’ received the most points. After her win she visited as many European Gay Pride events as possible and now she even travelled to the other side of the world to do the same. She flew to Sydney this week as part of the Mardi Gras celebrations and on thursday night she performed together with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in the iconic Sydney Opera House. It turned out to be a celebration of world famous divas and diversity with a handful of special guests!
Conchita gets a very warm welcome when she takes to the stage for the first time, opening with the song ‘Where Do I Begin’, made famous by one of her biggest idols, Shirley Bassey. For ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ and ‘Goldfinger’ she gets help from Australian drag artist and theatre actor Trevor Ashley. He is the first of the guest artists who duet with Conchita. Drag queen and RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Courtney Act sings a powerful rendition of ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ with her and artist Paul Capsis duets with her on ‘Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)’. He captures the audience even more with a passionate rendition of Nina Simone classic ‘Feeling Good’, which makes the audience stand on their feet. Idol winner and Eurovision contestant of last year Guy Sebastian shares ‘Climb Every Mountain’ with Conchita and sings ‘Tonight Again’ which brought Australia their first top 5 spot in Eurovision. The audience obviously still loves the swinging tune! Australian broadcaster SBS used the stage in the Sydney Opera House to announce the participant for Eurovision 2016, which turned out to be X Factor winner Dami Im. The announcement is met with huge cheering and her live version of ‘Waterloo’ makes the Eurovision fans in the building go wild.
Although Conchita shared the stage with special guests, the night was still very much about her. She sings beautiful covers of tracks she grew up with, like the piano rendition of Cher’s ‘Believe’, but also impresses with her own material, the 90s inspired and infectious dance tune ‘Firestorm’ for example. Her voice works surprisingly well when it melts together with the orchestra behind her, especially on the anthemic ‘Put That Fire Out’, the oriental sounds of ‘Out Of Body Experience’ and the jazzy big band style on the cheeky ‘Where Have All The Good Men Gone?’. The dramatic moments in those tracks work wonders in such a gorgeous live setting. She doesn’t miss a note and shows she is perfectly capable of capturing the audience’s attention for a full concert.
Of course a Conchita show would not be complete without a little speech about human rights and equality, so she uses the opportunity to speak out in favour of gay marriage in Australia. She stresses that one weekend of Mardi Gras is not enough to prove the progressive image of Australia and that it is time to make the step forward. “Nothing bad will happen, people will only get happier”, she charmingly states, hoping to let her message reach members of the government. She ends the show with the confident ‘That’s What I Am’, but of course comes back once more to sing her winning song ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’. A standing ovation follows and Conchita once more shows she is unique, both as character and performer!