The music of Mushroom, its mighty roster, and the chutzpah, energy and x-factor of its late leader Michael Gudinski was on display Sunday, Nov. 26 for Mushroom 50 Live, an all-star concert celebrating the independent music company’s half century.
Billed as a “once-in-a-lifetime event,” the show at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena was a conveyer belt through a musical time machine, taking the audience for a non-linear stroll through the history of Mushroom, glued together with interviews, tributes, vintage reels and footage of MG.
When Jimmy Barnes delivered a fiery performance at the top of the show, a statement was made — strap in.
Barnes, the rock legend who boasts more No. 1 albums on the ARIA Chart than any other artist, and who fronted Cold Chisel, the quintessential Aussie rock band, performed two of his signature songs, “No Second Prize” and “Working Class Man.”
“It is so nice to be here celebrating 50 years with Mushroom,” Barnes told the crowd. “I was singing with Mushroom for 40 of those years. The other 10 I was watching Mushroom and watching the bands they were developing. It’s such an honor to be here. We’ve got a lot of friends in this room, a lot of friends here I can feel them, even the ones who aren’t here, I can still feel them,” Barnes noted, a nod to his old mate MG. “They’re in my heart.”
The hits kept rolling. Vika & Linda performed “I’m Living in the ‘70s,” a classic from Skyhooks, the glam rock band that gave MG and Mushroom its breakthrough. Amy Shark spun a fresh interpretation of Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” DMA’S turned their attention to “Silver” and “Lay Down,” Frente returned to “Ordinary Angels,” Paul Kelly hit “Before Too Long” and a cover of Sunnyboys’ “Alone With You,” Christine Anu sang “My Island Home.”
Anyone who has signed to Mushroom “will tell you that that it feels like a family, and tonight feels like an extension of that family” explained Missy Higgins, who made several trips to the stage.
Goanna’s Shane Howard, a late addition to the lineup, had the audience on its feet early with a rousing performance of “Solid Rock,” a statement song that sounds as relevant now as it did on its release in the early ‘80s.
Mushroom’s recognition of the great artistry of Australia’s Indigenous music community was in full view as Yothu Yindi got the room shaking with “Djäpana (Sunset Dreaming)” and “Treaty”, then Dan Sultan orchestrated a pin-drop moment with his rendition of the late, great Archie Roach’s “Took The Children Away.”
Both of MG’s kids, Kate and Matt, spoke on the night. “He created a family environment that extended to artists as well as his staff and the whole music industry,” Kate enthused. “Dad was incredibly proud that a song which was written in our family home at Mount Macedon by a Melbourne band became a global hit.” That song was The Temper Trap’s “Sweet Disposition,” and, naturally, Dougy Mandagi and Co. were on hand to deliver the goods.
On paper, and with 36 artists doing their part, Mushroom 50 Live looked like a logistical nightmare. No doubt it was, though the production team and the artists, the majority performing on a rotating main stage, with several others on a second stage in the round, pulled it off.
The evening reached its climax with Mark Seymour’s mini-set, which included Hunters & Collectors’ “Throw Your Arms Around Me.” Seymour performed the much-loved, often-covered song in a virtual duet with Ed Sheeran, whose own solo rendition of the song leads-off the recently-released Mushroom tribute album, 50 Years Of Making Noise. Gremlins did their sneaky work on Sheeran’s video link. No biggie. The audience lapped it up, both in the room and back home.
The free-to-air Seven Network hosted the marathon, four-hour special event and won the night. Mushroom 50 Live was the most-watched entertainment show of the evening, capturing 557,000 metro viewers, according to OzTAM data, with 490,000 tuning in for the late session and 350,000 caught the finale. Across the nation, some 830,000 people tuned in, according to Mushroom.
“We’re one of the great music countries of the world and Melbourne is the music capital of Australia,” Matt Gudinski, chairman and CEO of Mushroom Group, said as he looked down the barrel of the Seven Network’s cameras. It’s a business that was “created to nurture and promote Australian talent.” And today, “we’re passionate as ever about discovering new talent that can be embraced by the world.”
Mushroom 50 Live was part of the ALWAYS LIVE 2023 program, a 17-day statewide celebration of contemporary live music supported by the Victoria Government through Visit Victoria.