“I’m still coming down from Bruce Springsteen, the euphoria… one of the greatest things I’ve ever done.”
Michael Gudinski is pretty much as big as it gets in terms of bigwigs in the Australian music industry, so when he says something is “one of the greatest things he’s ever done,” you better sit up and listen.
Over the Easter weekend, Gudinski’s Frontier Touring staged two mammoth Bruce Springsteen concerts at Hanging Rock in the Macedon Ranges. The ‘once-in-a-liftetime’ shows saw the Boss play a three-hour set on both nights, with support from Jimmy Barnes and The Rubens, to over 34,000 fans across the weekend.
Joining Springsteen on stage as part of the E Street Band was Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello, with Gudinski himself saying that the guitarist’s solo during ‘The Ghost Of Tom Joad’ was “one of the greatest guitar solos I’ve ever seen in my life.”
The Mushroom Records mogul has been chasing Springsteen for some time. “Jesus Christ, I’ve been trying to get him for years and years,” he said, and what better setting to show off the Boss’ live stage show than in Gudinski’s own backyard, at Victoria’s spectacular Hanging Rock.
The hugely popular event was deemed a huge success, not only were fans treated to a very special concert in an equally special location but the tour made a killing commercially. Springsteen’s Aussie tour has generated $25 million in ticket sales, topping Billboard’s Hot Tours chart ahead of tours by Rihanna and Taylor Swift, with the Hanging Rock shows accounting for $5 million of that figure.
“We wanted to make it something special,” Gudinski said of the Springsteen shows. “I have a real passion for Hanging Rock. I have huge dreams for more shows at that place. It’s beautiful.”
Love Rage Against The Machine?
Get the latest Rage Against The Machine news, features, updates and giveaways straight to your inbox Learn more
Situated between Victoria’s Woodend and Mount Macedon, the picturesque location features a natural amphitheatre and is said to be one of the best examples in the world of a volcanic formation known as a mamelon. Basically, about six million years ago some particularly stiff lava created this unique mound or hill on the Earth’s surface, and as a result, craft incredible formations like that at Hanging Rock. “I’m still coming down from Bruce Springsteen, the euphoria… one of the greatest things I’ve ever done.” – Michael Gudinski, Frontier Touring
A popular tourist destination, the reserve is famous for the Hanging Rock Cup and Races and as the setting for the renowned novel and movie Picnic At Hanging Rock.
The rare volcanic formation attracts plenty of visitors each year thanks to the internationally acclaimed 1975 film. The Peter Weir directed mystery, based on the novel of the same name, follows the disappearance of several schoolgirls and their teacher from the site, and punters at the Springsteen concerts could be heard cheekily crying ‘Miranda!’ in tribute to the cult film as they departed in their convoy of vehicles.
Bruce Springsteen’s Easter weekend concerts at the unique site mark the end of the three year/three concert trial arrangement between the Macedon Shire Council and Gudinski’s Frontier Touring company, as Australian Leisure notes. A Macedon Ranges local, Gudinski had been rallying for the site to be used as a music venue for some time before successfully transforming the location into a spectacular outdoor concert venue for three unique international headliners.
Leonard Cohen christened the site back in 2011 playing to a crowd of 12,000 with Clare Bowditch, Dan Sultan, and Paul Kelly pitching in as supports. Cohen, a fan of the eerie Weir film, is said to have jumped at the opportunity to play at Hanging Rock. “Cohen’s concerts are usually described in reverential tones; for this one night the setting was almost as memorable as the performance,” was how one Sydney Morning Herald reviewer summed up the event.
Rod Stewart enjoyed a similarly successful show at the scenic venue in February last year. The crooner entertained fans singing a string of hits (aptly, as part of his worldwide The Hits Tour), with support from Melbourne’s Paris Wells and Mark ‘Diesel’ Lizotte.
The scale of the concerts were enormous, unlike anything Australia has ever seen before, and with such successful concerts having already been held at the unique location it’s hard not to get caught up in Gudinski’s vision. Yet now that the contract with Macedon Shire Council has run out, the future of the site as a music venue is still in the balance.
The Aussie music mogul however has big plans, hoping that Hanging Rock will continue to be a concert venue for many years to come, in the same kind of vein as America’s iconic Red Rocks amphitheatre.
Located near Morrison, Colorado, the majestic setting marks where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains; an open-air, naturally occurring and acoustically perfect amphitheatre and has been a much-loved contemporary music venue for over 70 years.
The stage is nestled between towering red sandstone rocks and over the years has hosted some of music’s biggest names, including U2, James Taylor, The Eagles, Coldplay, and Jimi Hendrix as just a sample of many.
Red Rocks is located 6,450 feet above sea level, which makes for some pretty breathtaking views – figuratively and literally.
But as the official website’s health advisory notices point out, it means the air is thinner. “At high elevation you can feel like you are breathing through a straw,” they note.
The lack of air can prove challenging, with Incubus frontman Brandon Boyd noting that the high altitude caused him some difficulty singing in their 2004 live performance at Red Rocks, as captured in the concert film Alive At Red Rocks.
Incubus is just one of dozens of iconic recordings at the Colorado site. The history of performancesis rich and colourful with the earliest rock performance staged by none other than The Beatles, back in August of 1964. Interestingly, it was the only concert not sold out on their US tour.
Notably, a concert by Jethro Tull in 1971 saw 1,000 fans gatecrash the sold out show. The Denver police clashed heads with the troublemakers, using tear gas in an attempt to keep them out of the amphitheatre. The wind however carried the tear gas over the hill to the paying crowd and onto the stage.
The incident led to a five year ban on rock concerts at Red Rocks implemented by then-Mayor William H. McNichols. The ban was finally lifted when concert promoter Barry Fey took legal action when denied a permit to book folk rock band America at the venue in 1975. Both sites are picturesque, nestled between breathtaking rock formations and featuring a natural amphitheatre.But can Australia’s Hanging Rock etch its name in music venue royalty alongside Red Rocks?
U2’s washed out 1983 concert at the venue is often revered as one of the greatest live performances ever, launching their reputation as a first-rate live act and capitalising on their long-running campaign to ‘crack’ America.
The Irish rockers documented the gig with a live album and film, Under A Blood Red Sky, in which torrential rain and wind threatened to cancel the concert altogether, but the band persevered refusing to move or cancel the gig. Thankfully the rain dissipated hours before the show with only a misty drizzle persisting.
The sold out concert saw only about half the audience show up due to the severe weather conditions. Those that did turn up were given an unforgettable experience.
An article on the best Red Rocks concerts of all time by tourism website Colorado.com noted the U2 concert as one of the most famous at the venue, “when a fully mulleted Bono belted out ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ amid a hypnotic fog and rock formations festooned with massive flames,” reads one vivid description.
Australia’s John Butler Trio played at the iconic venue in 2010 and also released a live album, Live At Red Rocks to commemorate the special event. In the Colorado.com article a fan credited “the respect and gratitude paid to Red Rocks and its surrounding land and people and the spirituality of the music” as to why this performance was her most memorable at the venue.
British nu-folkies Mumford & Sons were the latest to capture their performance, with Road To Red Rocks released earlier this year. The band played two sold out shows at the site in December 2012, wooing the crowd with their soulful harmonies that “soar and float in folky ecstasy, stacking up nicely with the rare but powerful moments of raucous rock thrashin,” as our Tone Deaf reviewer put it.
Red Rocks has been an institution to live music for over a hundred years. The amphitheatre officially opened in 1941 but concerts were being held at the site as early as 1906. The venue is on every musicians “must play” list and every punters “must see” list. But can Australia’s Hanging Rock etch its name in music venue royalty alongside Red Rocks?
Both sites are picturesque, nestled between breathtaking rock formations and featuring a natural amphitheatre. So it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that Aussie music mogul Gudinski is fighting tooth and nail to transform the sleepy tourist destination into a prime touring location for a full-blown out-door arena show.
Hanging Rock as a permanent music venue is still a relatively new idea and it must’ve taken a few locals by surprise when they discovered Gudinski’s plan to create a concert venue in their backyard. But it surely must’ve seemed just as mad a hundred years ago when someone first hatched the plan to stage concerts at Colorado’s high-altitude formations.
The success of Red Rocks is owed entirely to its unique location, and the special quality that bands and fans alike find in it; something that it shares with Hanging Rock.
Concert-goers are simply wowed by the beauty of the place and coupled with sensational live music it makes for a truly unforgettable experience. Judging by the turnout at this year’s Bruce Springsteen Easter weekend concerts and the reviews from awestruck fans for not just the Boss but previous acts Rod Stewart and Leonard Cohen, it makes it three for three for Gudinski, meaning it’s looking highly possible that the promoter’s dream could soon become a reality.