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Live Review: Fifty Years Of Making Noise - Mushroom 50 @ Rod Laver Arena

27 November 2023 | 9:07 am | Noah Redfern

Celebrating Mushroom’s 50th anniversary by travelling through the history and legacy of the label in song and stories was something to behold.

Yothu Yindi

Yothu Yindi (Credit: Zennieshia Butts/Mushroom Creative House)

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In 1972, in Melbourne, Mushroom Records was founded. Although founder and leader Michael Gudinski passed away in early 2021, the label lives on. A legacy unparalleled, tonight’s celebration consisted of four hours of Australian rock and roll royalty paying tribute to the label that built their careers and believed in them.

To say that Mushroom Records’ catalogue of artists is legendary would be quite an understatement. Yet, somehow, the lineup still blew many a mind on Sunday night.

Artists played their hits, covers of their favourite label mates and more to celebrate the music and love shared by their family.

Cold Chisel frontman and showstopper in his own right, Jimmy Barnes opened the performances with his hits No Second Prize and Working Class Man. The raw energy on display from Barnsey’s vocals alone was marvellous.

Personal favourites Vika and Linda stole the sophomore spot with a fantastic cover of Skyhooks Living In The 70s and early single When Will You Fall For Me. The Bull sisters really didn’t need to rock this hard so early in the night, but the standard was well and truly set by these remarkable artists.

Next up, singer-songwriter Missy Higgins gave us her answer to The Triffids’ classic ‘86 hit Wide Open Road, along with her classic Scar. A remarkable voice, a patient and wise energy and a refusal to not smile throughout made Higgins a joy even just for a few minutes. Luckily, to our delight, she returned to the stage later for another appearance.

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Infamous Hottest 100 champions The Rubens showed off their mega-hit Hoops, and Christine Anu surprised us with an acoustic track from a secret stage on the opposite side of the arena, playing under a sole spotlight. The evening delivered many contrasting moments, both tonally and directionally, with patrons getting used to the act of standing up and turning around quickly.

Rockers Goanna reminded us of their strength with their track Solid Rock, while follow-up Diesel gave us a ripping cover of the Aussie punk legends The Saints in Just Like Fire Would.

Another Cold Chisel legend, Ian Moss, played through his fan favourite track, Tucker’s Daughter, with a passion beyond compare - but we do wish we could’ve seen the two icons on a stage together again.

Indie stars The Temper Trap paid tribute to The Church in a cover of Under The Milky Way and then through with a home run with their generation-defining track, Sweet Disposition. That delay pedal riff is something else.

Aussie pop group Frente! told us how it was done in the ‘90s with Ordinary Angels, while Deb Conway and Willy Zygier took us back again with It’s Only The Beginning. And they weren’t kidding; we weren’t even halfway through the night.

Next up, Kate Cebrano showed us her talents haven’t faded at all in the years since Pash came out. The song is still great, cheeky fun, and she sells it every time.

Folk rock legend and true storyteller, Paul Kelly played the old gem Before Too Long. Although this was tremendous, and Kelly’s dance moves left us grinning ear to ear, his real showstopper was his fantastic cover of The SunnyboysAlone With You. Bringing original Sunnyboys guitarist Richard Bergman on stage for the song, Kelly was clearly having a ball.

With a fantastic introduction by Briggs, Arnhem Land group Yothu Yindi brought the crowd to their feet for a deadly set of tracks in Djapana and the crossover hit Treaty, which hits just as hard if not more in today’s civil rights conversation. The First Nations representation has always been a key point of Mushroom’s mission statement - not just for the quota. Treaty is a truly influential song to this day, and Yothu Yindi is essential to the history of Australian music.

After a brief intermission, the show continued. Hip hop faves Bliss N Eso performed alongside a choir, while Leonardo’s Bride took to the second stage for another intimate acoustic performance, lighters and all.

The next big thing was DMA’S with their hits in Silver and Lay Down, the latter making for a heavier moment in a show of predominantly upbeat music. Their blend of indie rock and shoegaze with their typical streetwear sense of style certainly tells enough of their story for newcomers to understand the band just in those two tracks.

Machinations frontman Fred Lonergan teamed up with the Mushroom house band for another hit, but the true highlight of this quarter was Dan Sultan. An amazing cover of Archie Roach’s Took The Children Away, delivered solely on piano and exposed vocals, later to be joined by wider instrumentation. The emotion shown by Sultan was more than palpable; it was painfully strong.

It’s also a highlight on the Mushroom 50 album.

The lovely Missy Higgins returned to the stage for a beautiful duet with Dan Sultan, followed by the tremendous Teskey Brothers with their delightful new single Oceans Of Emotions

Daddy Cool and Mondo Rock singer Ross Wilson took to the stage to cover another Skyhooks classic, Ego (Is Not A Dirty Word), a song he produced for the band back in 1975. Of course, he had a surprise for us in store: midway through the song, original Skyhooks member Red Symons appeared on stage to share his guitar chops for the track.

Amy Shark taking Kylie Minogue’s intoxicating, clubby pop anthem Can’t Get You Out Of My Head and putting it in an acoustic major key made for a unique experience - respect for putting her own spin on it.

Rounding out the night, Mushroom took the time to show off the next generation of signees.

Logan performed some of the strangest dance moves since Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, telling us through song to treat him like he’s Famous. WILSN gave us a delicate rendition of Renée Geyer’s 1975 song Heading In The Right Direction to a very warm reception.

Merci, Mercy played Riptide. This version, however, was a piano ballad; her gentle, soft vocals put a refreshing new spin on the track.

The brilliant Gordi swung us around one more time to the other stage for a gorgeous cover of Split Enz’s Message To My Girl before the finale brought us to the end of the night.

Mark Seymour of Hunters And Collectors took it home with a set of classics to round off the evening. First, in a digital duet with Ed Sheeran, Throw Your Arms Around Me.

Bringing out the rest of the band, we got Do You See What I See? and, finally, the perfect send-off, Holy Grail — pub rock classics performed for us as glorious arena rock.

Celebrating Mushroom’s 50th anniversary by travelling through the history and legacy of the label in song and stories, the event was really something to behold.

Here’s to another 50 years of making noise.