More then just a pretty building that gets whacked on postcards and stamps ad nauseum, the iconic Sydney Opera House holds such a status due to its endless list of music performances, many which, thankfully for us under-70s, defy the middle word in its name and feature the foremost pop, rock, soul, folk and electronic artists of the day.
Whether in the glorious concert hall or out amongst the glittering city and bridge lights of the forecourt, the Opera House has hosted some of the country’s most memorable and moving gigs of all time, with the past five years in particular seeing some truly spectacular sets go down under the white sails.
With summer on its way and three more highly-anticipated gigs set to join the throng of Opera House highlights, Florence + The Machine, Chet Faker & Tame Impala, we’ve picked out some of the greatest performances of the decade so far.
Karen O (Stop the Virgens) A Psycho Opera – 2012
Less of a live music gig and more of a dramatic, ethereal musical performance, Karen O of Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs fame gifted us all with a VIVID Live Karen O (Stop the Virgens) A Psycho Opera gig which stands as one of the weirdest, and greatest, things the Opera House has hosted.
With light projections, contemporary characters and Karen’s distinctive vocals and band leading the massed attendees through a bewildering story which saw her Virgens “encounter the hardships of youth, identity, and the valuable lessons learnt through consequence” the gig culminated in joyous celebration of music and art, the likes of which has yet to be usurped at the Concert Hall since.
Gallery: Karen O (Stop the Virgens) A Psycho Opera / Pics: Prudence Upton & Daniel Boud
The Drones – 2015
“Let the record show that there is only one band that can open their set with a song that was voted by a group of their peers as the greatest Australian song of all time. Let it also show that there is only one band that can get away with spitting, swearing and snarling on a stage as prestigious as the Opera House’s; instead treating it like one of the sticky, sweaty pubs the band cut their teeth in a decade and change ago. That band, ladies and gentlemen, is The Drones.”
Our writer David James Young summed it up superbly when national rock heroes The Drones performed the ten-year anniversary gig for Shark Fin Blues at the Opera House earlier this year, putting on a trumphant display of everything that makes them one of the best rock outfits we’ve ever produced.
Gallery: The Drones @ Sydney Opera House, 24/05/15 / Pics by Prudence Upton
Neil Finn & Paul Kelly – 2013
Never has a better pairing of veteran, iconic musical performers featured on the Concert Hall stage than the uncles you wish you had, Neil Finn and Paul Kelly. Live-streamed across the world when it took place mid-2013, the adorable banter between the two long-time friends, plus including Kelly’s nephew Dan Sultan and Neil’s song Elroy in the band, the gig warmed the cockles off of our dead, cold hearts.
Effortlessly flowing between Kelly and Finn’s own songs, Crowded House gems and other covers, with vocals swapped and traded like the stubbies of a case of beers, the two and a half hour sprawl (with three flamin’ encores no less) is thankfully still available in full online. If you’ve never witnessed the glory of Paul Kelly and Neil Finn grinning at each other whilst jamming out some tunes, you’ve never lived.
Watch: Neil Finn & Paul Kelly Live @ The Sydney Opera House
Royal Headache – 2015
Showing that they were truly sticking to the opening up of the house of “opera” to an increasingly wide range of genres and acts, The Opera House invited Aussie punk-rock legends Royal Headache to take to the concert hall stage earlier this year and, well… Look we’re not saying that they definitely regret it, but, it might not be the greatest memory of all time for the organisers.
After the band encouraged fans to get a bit more involved, the normally seated venue turned into a mosh for the ages, with a large portion of the crowd flooding the stage and hurling their bodies about. Although much to the delight of the band members themselves, security and police personnel rushed the stage, halting the show. Talk about all-time Opera House moments…
Watch: Royal Headache @ Sydney Opera House (Stage invasion from 6:30)
Gotye: An Animated Album Preview – 2011
It was to be the year that our boy Wally, and his now omnipresent moniker Gotye, took over the world with his epically triumphant break-up song ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’. Teetering on the precipice of world-wide fame and a journey that would see him claim Record Of The Year at the Grammys in two years time (way to be on the ball America), Gotye performed a preview of his Making Mirrors album, complete with visual projections tying in to each song.
With a 10-piece mini orchestra and some absolutely stunning animations sprawled across the concert hall, Wally and co. gave the two sold-out shows the first glimpse at a set of songs which would take on the world and we sat, spellbound and transformed, knowing that something, anything, was coming its way for Gotye.
Watch: Gotye – State Of The Art (Live version from the actual show here)
The Presets with the Australian Chamber Orchestra – 2014
Australia’s Princes of Dance, The Presets took to the Opera House stage for VIVID Live last year upping the ante from their usual two-man gig, adding violinist, composer and conductor Richard Tognetti and, oh yeah, the whole bloody Australian Chamber Orchestra.
A part of a journey through 42,000 years of music called Timeline, the show was a two-hour long aural feast, with the Beach Boys and The Stooges sitting alongside Mozart, Indigenous Didgeridoo music and literally everything else known to man, with Kim and Jules assisting in bringing to life the concept of music itself. As wanky as that sounds, it was seriously something else to behold, and one of the most adventerous outings to be found at The Sydney Opera House, of late.
Listen: Australian Chamber Orchestra & The Presets – Timeline (Preview)
The National – 2014
Early last year the Opera House forecourt featured a beautiful summer performance from the bearded beasts known as The National. Bringing the visceral, moody sounds of Matt Berninger and co. to a packed Opera House steps, this particular gig will stay with many for a long time.
With the perfectly suited backdrop of a moonlit Sydney harbour, the solemn, deafening tones of the band reverberating off the dull steel of the Bridge, the mood could not have been more perfect for a set which delved into the Ohio indie rock outfits ten-plus year catalogue and brought out some unexpected emotions from everyone in attendance. Utter bliss.
Gallery: The National – Sydney Opera House Forecourt 2014 / Pics: Ashley Mar