Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Wed 24 March
Lead photo: by Mackenzie Sweetnam, courtesy Mushroom Creative House
“A tornado of joy” is just one of the ways the late Michael Gudinski was described in this epic three-hour farewell to the titan of Australian music and touring. Starting on the dot of 7:07 pm, a reference to the Penfold’s Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon Gudinski loved, the show was as elaborate and perfectly produced as the man himself would have wanted for any of Frontier Touring’s acts. Big PA, all the lights, great staging, fantastically used LED screens; loud and proud. It was a joyful celebration of the man, Australian music, live performance, Melbourne, and Australia.
This was nothing less than a world-class arena show, delivered to an exacting technical standard; all the more impressive when you consider it was put together in a matter of days, not weeks. All design and production management was handled in-house by Mushroom’s own team headed by Travis Hogan. All of the highly polished video packages were produced by the Mushroom Creative team headed by Tom Macdonald.
The production suppliers, including JPJ Audio, PRG, Phaseshift, and Mediatec, all reached out to be involved to honour the memory of Michael Gudinski, who had been responsible for so many of the tours they had worked on over the past 45 years. The Rod Laver Arena team, led by Meg Walker and Glen King, worked tirelessly to make the memorial a reality.
Incredibly, bump-in started Monday morning, and they were still tweaking just before doors. You wouldn’t know it – it was so polished it was like it had been in rehearsals for a week. Both James ‘Oysters’ Kilpatrick’s and Tony Bryan’s FOH mixing was a masterclass in rock’n’roll, while Simon Johnson and Travis Hogan’s expansive lighting design managed to evoke classic Par Can-like looks appropriate to the 70s, while bringing all the modern beam and movement looks appropriate to the present day.
MCd by long-time friend Lee Simon, legendary Melbourne DJ and host of the first TV music show for adults ‘Nightmoves’ from 1977, the thoughtful and beautifully executed tribute took us through video presentations of the decades of Gudinski’s career, from Sunbury and Skyhooks in the 70s, Split Enz and Hunters & Collectors in the 80s, and overseas expansion in the 90s.
Emotional and heartfelt video tributes flowed in globally from Sting, Billy Joel, Taylor Swift, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Shirley Manson, Bryan Adams, and Rod Stewart. The reach and influence Michael Gudinski exerted on the music industry world-wide cannot be overstated. “He was a music man,” said Bruce Springsteen. “He loved his job and music the way I love mine. He wasn’t just excited by the receipts, he was excited about the show, the music. I loved him. I’m going to miss him terribly.”
Over and over again, both Australian and international artists praised the way Gudinski hosted them when on tour. His home was open to his artists, with Bliss n Eso thanking him for letting them crash in his house for three months while recording an album. It was apparent that MG was perhaps the greatest ambassador for Melbourne we had. Singer Gordi, signed to Gudinski company Liberation Music, recalled Michael’s presence at the recent pop-up busking gigs he organised in the CBD, featuring Darryl Braithwaite, Tones and I, and more. “We were on Swanson Street, and the trams were dinging as they went passed, and he smiled and said “I fucking love this city.”
Close friend Jimmy Barnes, in sombre black kilt and jacket, kicked off the musical performances with ‘Flesh and Blood’, written for his children and dedicated to MG. He was then joined by Mark Lizotte, daughter Mahalia Barnes, and granddaughter Ruby Rodgers for ‘Little Light’ and ‘When the War Is Over’.
TV and radio personality Carrie Bickmore paid tribute, eternally grateful to Michael for helping to kick-start her Beanies 4 Brain cancer charity by securing Ed Sheeran to play at the launch. Bickmore applauded the long list of women Gudinski had championed and supported in a male-dominated industry. Video tributes from Kate Ceberano, Amy Shark, Gordi, Kasey Chambers, Missy Higgins, and Deborah Conway backed up the sentiment. New Mushroom Records discovery Mia Wray then performed ‘Never Gonna Be The Same’.
Paul Kelly thanked Gudinski for taking a chance on him, before hinting at a yet unrealised Mushroom Indigenous talent project, then introducing tribute videos from Archie Roach, Christine Anu, Dan Sultan, and Troy Cassar Daley. Paul Kelly, joined by band member Michael Barclay, then performed the iconic Melbourne ballad ‘Leaps and Bounds’, which no Melbournian can hear without getting extremely emotional, including this one. Extra credit to the video team for incorporating the song’s reference to the Nylex clock showing the temperature at 11 degrees.
The most emotional performance of the night came from Ed Sheeran. Their families obviously very close, Ed had flown in at his own expense with a special exemption before the state funeral had even been announced. He completed two weeks’ quarantine and wrote a song for Michael while in isolation. Starting his tribute with what he thought was MG’s favourite song of his, ‘Castle on the Hill’, he then went into ‘The A Team’ before debuting ‘Visiting Hours’.
If it ever released publicly, ‘Visiting Hours’ is destined to be played at more funerals than Sinatra’s ‘My Way’. A simple and incredibly heartfelt song, it mourns that “I wish heaven had visiting hours” so the song’s protagonist could drop in to chat with the deceased, show him how much his daughter had grown, and seek his advice. “I’d like to ask to take you home, but I know what their answer would be,” sang Sheeran, before breaking down in tears momentarily, gathering himself, and finishing the song. He left the stage hurriedly, shoulders heaving as he wept.
Best anecdote of the night goes to Queen of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme, via video. He related the story of QOTSA playing Melbourne and being taken out to dinner by Gudinski to a Japanese restaurant at Crown, where they had a private dining room. Gudinski had, however, double booked himself, with another dinner he was hosting running in the private dining room next door. Constantly dragging Josh between the two rooms, at one point they got lost and walked into a third private room “Who the hell are you blokes?” asked MG, before falling immediately into conversation. They ended up having a third dinner with them. “Michael Gudinski was like a credit card,” quipped Josh. “He was accepted everywhere.”
Mushroom and Melbourne’s greatest daughter, Kylie Minogue praised that Gudinski had taken her “five foot and a whisper” and made her feel “a hundred feet tall.” She was then joined by Ed Sheeran to perform ‘All The Lovers’ before good-heartedly breaking into ‘Locomotion’, where it all began for her.
Just when you thought your poor Melbournian heart couldn’t get any more wracked, Mark Seymour was joined by Vika and Linda Bull for the most devastating version of ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’ I’ve ever heard. Rabbi Menachem Wolf spoke of Jewish tradition, invoking the sound of the Shofar, before leading the 7,200 strong crowd to join in singing an ancient Hebrew hymn, in which he replaced the chorus with Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, Cohen famously having been toured by Frontier.
The grand finale saw the entire musical cast, joined by Noiseworks’ Jon Stevens, for an incredibly loud send-off in the form of ‘Good Times’, originally by the Easybeats, but a huge hit for Mushroom, Barnesy, and INXS in 1987. There were confetti cannons, beams, and the most rock’n’roll ending a memorial service ever had. Vale Michael, your crew sent you off well.
PA: d&b audiotechnik KSL – 18 per side main hangs, 12 per side sidefills, 4 SL-SUBS
Control: 2x AVID S6Ls at FOH, DiGiCo SD5 and SD10 on monitors
PRG (stage lighting, ground control and rigging), Phaseshift (room lighting)
Control: Stage – grandMA2, Room – Hog 4
Claypaky Unicos – 29
Claypaky Sharpy – 58
Mac Viper – 12
Mac Viper Airfx – 24
Mac Quantum Wash – 20
Mac Aura XB – 8
VL 3500 Wash – 42
VL 3500 Wash FX – 4
PRG Ground Control – 4
Duet Blinder – 36
4 lite Blinder – 23
211 SQM LED, disguise gx 2c media servers, Barco E2.
Nine camera shoot through Mediatec HD2 OB truck running Grass Valley 3G cameras and Ross Video Carbonite Black Switcher. Fully integrated Riedel Comms system throughout Broadcast and Show.
Saul Shtein, Travis Hogan, Michael Oberg, Simon Johnson, Jade Harbord, Ann Gibson, Sarah Donelly, Tom Macdonald, Anna Toman, Vanessa Langley, Maddy Lynch, Mary Bainbridge, Aisling Charlesworth, Dion Brant, Denise D’Sylva, Daina Coxall, Brian Purnell, Liam Pethick, Will Devereux, Mark D’Angelo, Lee Simons, Samantha Clode
James Kilpatrick, Tony Bryan, Rod Matheson, Ben Milne, Boden Birkett, Francis Fogliani, Joshua De Jong, Ryan Fallis, Ernie Rose, Kelvin Mustica, Nic Broomhead, Brian McMahon, Doug Brady
Matt Jones, Alex Saad, Fergal O’Sullivan, Alister Blaney, Lee Webb, Marcus Holmes, Andrew Vaughan, Graeme McHugh, Lawrie Videcky, Thomas Herterich, Ben Kocsis, Johnny Bamford
Video & Broadcast
Dave Hendy, Dan Aulich, Rob Nelson, Matthew Cattolico, Herman Putter, David Goldsztein, Dean Pentz, Sam Stephens, Aaron Donnelly, Matthew Fields, Taylor Davison, Sean Cooper, Sean Killa, Leigh Ferguson, Cameron Pigou, Robert Naylor, James Jacks, Grenville Drinkwater, James Puli, Steve Welch, Peter McIntosh
George Hanna, Chris Lorenz, Brett Millican, Darryl Thomas, Claudia Jones
Charlie Kopa, Andrew Rourke, Cam Gillies
Sion Barnes, Anissa Brown, Anthony Buhagiar, Merryn Butterfield, Emil Camilleri, Diego Carvajal Moreno, Lachlan Casey, Shay Cloudwright, Charles Cook, Aaron Cornall, Lourde Cosgrave, Richard Cosgriff, Jonty Czuchwicki, Zulal Dalbas, Adrian David, Judy Doomernik, Michael Ebdon, Geoffrey Eden, Rebecca Edgecumbe, Joe Fogarty, Dallas Freedman, Kaleb Gibbins, Shane Goff, Buddy Gottaas, Richard Haley, Matthew Harris, Ryan Hoare, Matthew Iliff, Alexander Jackson, David Johnson, Liam Kenny, Joseph Kerekere, David Kocankoska, Travis Koerntjes, Blaze Lenkic, Tamika Liddle, Tyson Lindley, Christian Marsden, Riley McCloskey, Conan McGrath, Paul McMahon, Tereapii Meads, Daniel Obrien, Zarish Opyrchal, Cameron Orlov, Mark Pelletier, Wayne Pettman, Jim Prousalis, Joel Prouse, Gloria Roberts, Cristian Rubiano, Robert Schubert, Daniel Segrave, Deepank Sheth, Anthony Skinner, Angela Stacey, Skye Stevens, Jason Xanthoulakis
Rod Laver Arena
Meg Walker, Glen King, Mark Obrien
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