Sheeran and Minogue, both close friends of Gudinski’s, were among a number of artists who took to the Rod Laver stage to perform in the Aussie music titan’s memory. Jimmy and Mahalia Barnes, Paul Kelly and Michael Barclay, and Mia Wray also performed.
Sheeran, who had flown into Australia to attend the state memorial, said he did not take the opportunity to be at the memorial lightly. “I know it’s difficult to get into this country and I don’t take it for granted,” he said. He performed ‘Castle On The Hill’ and ‘The A Team’, both favourites of Gudinski’s, and a new song ‘Visiting Hours’, which he said he had finished just last week.
Between songs, Sheeran recalled his first encounter with Gudinski in Melbourne. His first impression of the promoter, Sheeran said, was that “he was very proper, very professional”. He later came to learn that Gudinski was “just a barrel of laughs”. “He was a tornado of joy. Everywhere he went, he lifted the room and just fucked off,” Sheeran remarked, to laughter from the audience.
The state memorial paid tribute to Gudinski’s deep, multifaceted impact on Australian music over the decades: from his love of live music and the huge tours he brought to Australia with Frontier Touring; to the Australasian music legends – Skyhooks, Split Enz and more – that he signed and nurtured; to his support of First Nations artists including Archie Roach and Yothu Yindi; to his more recent efforts to revitalise Australia’s music industry during the coronavirus pandemic with Mushroom Group.
The memorial was live-streamed from Rod Laver Arena on YouTube. At its peak, the three-hour event had more than 51,000 viewers.
Numerous artists recorded video messages for the memorial, in which they reminisced about Gudinski and spoke about his impact on their careers and Australian music.
Tributes from Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Taylor Swift, Sam Smith, Eagles’ Joe Walsh, Garbage’s Shirley Manson, Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, Billy Joel, Bryan Adams, Josh Homme, Rod Stewart and more were played throughout the memorial.
Members of The Temper Trap, The Rubens and DMA’S, as well as Daryl Braithwaite, Midnight Oil’s Peter Garrett, Gordi, Bliss N Eso, Kate Ceberano, Amy Shark, Vance Joy and others also recorded messages.
Kylie Minogue opened her performance with a short remembrance of Gudinski. “The Big G took this little scrawny girl from Melbourne to the world and back home again,” she said. “I echo the sentiments of everything that has been said tonight, especially how he believed in you when you couldn’t believe in yourself.”
Minogue then invited Sheeran back onstage, where they sang ‘All The Lovers’ and ‘The Loco-Motion’.
The pop star was introduced as the “First Lady of Mushroom” by Michael Gudinski’s son Matt – also the executive director of Mushroom Group – who gave a heartfelt eulogy for his father.
“Dad helped this city build an identity. A global identity as the home of music which he loved so much. Dad always wanted to make Melbourne the most memorable destination for every artist he worked with ever,” he said.
“Championing and showcasing our city was something he did with unparalleled enthusiasm. I’m very proud to stand here this evening and call Michael Gudinski my father.”
Matt Gudinski said that he and Mushroom Group would continue to further his father’s vision. The company’s 50th anniversary, which it marks next year, “truly will be a celebration of everything my great father achieved”.
“His legacy has not died. It truly has only just begun.”
Michael Gudinski’s daughter Kate also remembered her father and his love for their family in a tearful speech.
“Although he was always doing so much for so many people, and he achieved so many incredible things, he always felt like he needed to be doing more,” she said.
“I will love you with all of my heart and soul forever. I hope I can see you in my dreams and continue to make you proud.”
The memorial concluded with a spirited group performance of ‘Good Times’ by INXS and Jimmy Barnes, as confetti rained down on the arena.