Bernard Fanning, Ocean Alley and Others Set for Australia's First Post-COVID Arena Shows

Credit Cybele Malinowski

Bernard Fanning

Arena concerts are coming back to Australia.

Over two weekends, Qudos Bank Arena in west Sydney will host a brace of socially-distanced concerts under the Greatest Southern Nights banner, featuring a line-up of homegrown performers.

On Saturday, 28th November, triple j Hottest 100 champions Ocean Alley headline a bill along with Jack River, Ruby Fields and Jack Botts.

The following Saturday, Dec. 5 will feature performances from Powderfinger frontman Bernard Fanning, Matt Corby and Merci, Mercy.

Greatest Southern Nights is jointly produced by TEG and Live Nation, with support from NSW Government and Destination NSW.

“I had the notion that we need to be masters of our own destiny and we need to start thinking differently,” says Geoff Jones, CEO of TEG, parent company of Ticketek, TEG Dainty and Qudos Bank Arena.

“We’re pumped about getting people back to a show and arena,” Jones tells Billboard. “That will give confidence to the government.”

For the two special events, the arena will operate with a reduced capacity of just over 6,000, for what will be the largest indoor music event held in Australia since the shutdown of the live entertainment industry in March.

Qudos Bank Arena is Australia’s largest venue of its kind, with a capacity of around 21,000.

“After eight long months of zero arena shows,” explains Roger Field, President of Live Nation Asia Pacific, “these concerts will see great musicians bring thousands of fans back together.”

In a statement, Fanning said the gigs are an important re-start for the artist community. “I’m so happy to be part of the reopening of the live music scene in NSW,” he says. “It’s a great opportunity to get people safely together again, but just as importantly, to give the music industry workers whose lives have been so upended by COVID, a chance to get back to doing what they do best.”

Since the pandemic pulled the plug on live entertainment, the arena has had to cancel or postpone shows for Niall Horan, Harry Styles, Iron Maiden, Lenny Kravitz and others.

Across the country, the live music network is on its knees.

Some 70 percent of Australian Live Music Business Council’s members are predicting closure within the next six months, based on cashflow, or rather lack thereof, according to the trade body’s inaugural survey.

Almost three-quarters of its members reported a slide in revenue of 75-100 percent since March.

“We’ve a long way to go. There’s a lot of pain to go in this industry,” Jones notes ahead of the Greatest Southern Nights shows. “But we’ve got to start somewhere.”

The dates are part of the Great Southern Nights program, which will see 1,000 COVIDSafe gigs presented across regional New South Wales and the state capital, Sydney, through the month of November.

The health emergency is just the latest calamity in what’s been a harsh year in these parts, as many Australians struggled with an unprecedented bushfire season and a prolonged drought in the months before COVID-19 entered the vernacular.