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Live Review: New Years Eve - ABC TV

1 January 2023 | 2:45 am | Stephen Green

A joyous celebration of music that highlighted everything that's wrong with Australian music culture in 2022

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Hating on the New Year's Eve fireworks broadcast is one of Australia's favourite pastimes, but in the last few years the disquiet has been quelled by an impressive mix of amazing Australian talent performing great, well known songs that please the masses. 

This year was no different with an almost flawless cast of talent from Casey Donovan to Courtney Act to Ball Park Music to Tones And I. Hats off to a brilliant selection of artists from across genres that created a party atmosphere while Zan Rowe and Charlie Pickering brought their A-games as the hosts with the most. Without doubt the ABC put together a great range of Australia's finest. The performances were nothing short of fantastic, but the biggest question hanging over the night is what happened to Australian music's mojo?  

Ball Park Music smashed it out of the park with their set consisting of Tripping the Light Fantastic from 2014 and Stars In My Eyes from their latest album. They followed that up with a cover of Leonardo's Bride's Even When I'm Sleeping. An Aussie classic to be sure. Vika and Linda brought the goods as they always do with a tribute to Judith Durham with Georgie Girl and to Archie Roach with I'm On Your Side (joined by Casey Donovan). Morgan Evans also flew the flag for country music with two of his own country hits Day Drunk and Kiss Somebody as well as a tribute to Christine McVie, Don't Stop

Tasman Keith brought it (with a pretty damn nice suit just quietly) with Love Too Soon from one of the year's standout albums A Colour Undone. It was most Australian's first taste of the single and a very good taste at that. If there was any doubt about his talent, his version of Prince's I Wanna Be Your Lover smashed it out of the park. Confident, refined and a rendition that would have made the original artist proud, Keith is without doubt a superstar and proved it to any doubters tonight. 

Dami Im is by now a veteran of Australian music and provided a fantastic Olivia Newton John tribute with Hopelessly Devoted to You and nailed Elton's I'm Still Standing. Courtney Act also slayed, particularly with Over the Rainbow.

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Electric Fields have proven themselves as one of the country's most talented acts for many years now and their 2019 single tailor made for New Year's Eve, 2000 And Whatever which despite being a staple of multiple new year celebrations has never broken the ARIA Chart to be the hit it deserves to be. The band followed the song up with a huge medley of 90s dance hits. From Corona's Rhythm of the Night to Mr President's Coco Jamboo, the band absolutely slayed, nailing banger after banger in a crowd-pleasing set that even the grumpiest asshole on Twitter surely would have been up dancing to. 

Tones and I closed the night with her big hits as well as great, but potentially unnecessary covers of Dog Days Are Over and Diamonds. This is undoubtedly a global superstar who's own hits from the last five years can stand on their own. 

Casey Donovan is the undisputed Queen of New Year's Eve and this year was no exception. Dancing On My Own, About Damn Time and a blistering performance of The Greatest Showman hit This Is Me all showed why she's one of country's most talented vocalists. Her new single Shake It also raised the roof, begging the question that if she's one of Australia's best artists, and as proclaimed by host Zan Rowe the "Queen of every stage", why aren't we already celebrating its success rather than hoping with crossed fingers that Australian radio and the public more generally will give it the time of day based on this great performance? 

Have we lost faith in great Australian pop music that much that when we get the cream of Australia's talent together on New Years Eve, they have to play original songs that haven't troubled the ARIA Charts and a whole bunch of covers because for the other 364 days of the year Australians don't care enough to create homegrown hits anymore? Or is it radio that doesn't care? Or has the industry lost faith in itself so hard that it simply doesn't put the weight behind these artists and songs that so sorely deserve it? 

Frankly, every single artist on tonight's stage deserves the limelight they had and proved once and for all why they deserve mainstream success. How Electric Fields aren't churning out top 10 hits is baffling. How Tasman Keith couldn't even chart high enough for an ARIA nomination with songs and talent of the quality he strutted tonight is criminal. How Casey Dononvan isn't having the 2020s version of John Farnham, Tina Arena or Delta Goodrem's chart success with her OWN songs is a complete indictment on the Australian music industry today. 

Cast back 30 years ago and what would our equivelant have been? Well to start with, the top 50 singles of the year would have had 15 hit Aussie songs to choose from as opposed to the 1 or 2 that we're likely to have unveiled in the coming weeks when the 2022 end of year charts are revealed, mainly from artists who had to go overseas to make it. Whether it's the labels, radio, streaming services or whatever, the ABC's New Years' Eve broadcast has shown up what's wrong with Australian music. Either original Australian records aren't cutting it or the public aren't hearing them. A few decades ago, John Farnham would be performing You're The Voice because we were proud of our new, homegrown hits and we were creating Australian icons. We wouldn't be asking him to have a crack at Dancing Queen. We didn't need to. It shouldn't be left to the New Years Eve broadcast to be the vessel for mainstream Australia to discover Tasman Keith and Electric Fields. 

Whatever the reasons for Australian music's nadir in the mainstream consciousness, it can't be blamed on talent. Every one of tonight's performers given the right conditions, should be not just troubling the ARIA Charts throughout the year, but should be commanding them. If the songs and the support are there, Australian music is in safe hands, but do the Australian music and media industries have the balls to invest and punt on what's needed and truly fight to get our local artists out of the current commercial hole that our mainstream industry is in? 

That's not just a question.... It's the challenge for Australia in 2023. 

Happy 2000 and whatever...