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Conchita delights fans with free concert

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Conchita Wurst singing at Ballhausplatz. Photo: APA
10:05 CEST+02:00
Ten thousand admiring fans crammed into central Vienna's Ballhausplatz on Sunday afternoon to hear Conchita Wurst's first public performance since her Eurovision win in Copenhagen last weekend.

An eclectic crowd - young and old, straight and gay – many wearing fake beards, cheered and waved rainbow and Austrian flags as Conchita took to the stage.

Humbled by the attention, Wurst opened and closed the show with her winning ballad, Rise Like a Phoenix, as well as a stirring rendition of Cher's hit, Believe and her 2012 Eurovision entry, That's What I Am.

Fans enthusiastically sang along to a karaoke version of Phoenix, following the English text from a giant video screen.

"It was only a week ago. This is unbelievable. It means so much to me that I am not alone. It's beautiful to believe in a future without discrimination and hate, and I'm honoured that next year the Song Contest will come to Austria," Conchita told her enraptured audience.

Ukrainian students, Katya and Valeria. Photo: Kim Traill

Longtime supporter, Christina Pichler, travelled from Burgenland with her mother for the spectacle, which was broadcast live on ORF.

"It's absolutely incredible. She is really uniting everyone. By creating this figure of Conchita, she is showing there is major rethinking and change going on in Europe and all over the world, including in countries where this topic is so negative," Pichler told The Local. 

Ukrainian students, Katya and Valeria, were equally awed. "We think she's great. We were unsure about her at first, but now we're used to her."

But they don't expect their friends in Ukraine to understand their enthusiasm for Austria's new heroine.

"We know when we post pictures on Facebook and people back home see we were here, they will say 'Ugh, how could you?'"

Prior to her performance, the newly crowned Queen of Austria met with Chancellor Werner Faymann and Minister of Culture, Josef Ostermayer, at an official reception at the Federal Chancellery.

"You have made Austrians very proud by what you have achieved at the Song Contest," an impressed Faymann told Conchita.

"Conchita stands for openness and freedom, and I wish that all of Europe will have such an image," he added. 

Wurst, wearing a figure-hugging white dress, appeared overwhelmed by the media attention, as she clutched her Eurovision trophy.

"I feel a freedom that means more to me than winning the Song Contest. Thank you, thank you, each and every one of you," she said.

"Austria has sent a signal to the world. This is overwhelming." 

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