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Elton John Final Performer At SEC

01:01 PM Thursday 12/24/15 | |

Elton John played the last ever show at the Sydney Entertainment Centre Dec. 19, his 46th appearance there. The 13,250-capacity venue is to be demolished Jan. 1 to make way for apartments after 32 years. 

  • Elton John

    Circuit Of The Americas, Austin, TX
    October 25, 2015

    (AP Photo / Eric Gay)


During that time it drew 27 million people to concerts and sporting events. It was rebranded Qantas Credit Union Arena in January 2014. A multipurpose 9,000-capacity facility International Convention Centre opens in its place December 2016 as part of the A$3 billion ($2.1 billion) redevelopment of Darling Harbour.

Elton was booked to tour Australia December 2015 by Chugg Entertainment when he heard of the venue’s closure, and asked if he could be its final act.

Two of Australia’s biggest acts, Cold Chisel and John Farnham, also played farewell shows at the Centre, respectively on Dec. 18 and Dec. 16. Over the years, the Sydney Entertainment Centre presented John with a plaque for being the rock act to play the most shows there. It had also arranged with the Sydney Observatory to officially name the Sir Elton John Star in the Constellation of Phoenix. It once accommodated his request to turn the backstage area into Bondi Beach, with sand, umbrellas and young waiters in brief bathing shorts.

“I have played this place 46 times now, it’s been part of my life,” he said at the beginning of a loudly received show. “I want to send it off with a big bang.” The set covered the hits as “Funeral For A Friend,” “Daniel,” “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues” and some unexpected pieces such as “Believe” and “All The Girls Love Alice.” The high point was the stirring singalong “Your Song,” which he dedicated to Sydney. Cold Chisel had played 22 shows at the Centre, with singer Jimmy Barnes matching that number as a solo act.

The second of their two farewell sets reproduced their Last Stand set from their 1983 farewell tour. John Farnham told his audience he had a problem. As a parting gesture, the venue presented him with the 1.8-metre entrance sign to the John Farnham Room, a 2002 rebranding of its VIP room.

His wife Jill refuses to let him store it at home, he said, adding, "It's not going in the bedroom where I envisaged it.” The 66-year-old Farnham, the only Australian artist to have a No. 1 record in five consecutive decades, officially played 40 shows there. But appearances as part of a duet tour with Olivia Newton-John and his role in the “Jesus Christ Superstar: The Arena Tour” in 1992, meant he had actually been on its stage 76 times. Disney On Ice played 269 shows, Schools Spectacular 94, The Wiggles 82 and Torvill & Dean 61.

The Sydney Entertainment Centre opened May 1 2013 at a cost of $42 million ($30.06 million). It was home to the National Basketball League’s Sydney Kings team which played 327 games over 25 years, and now moves to Sydney Olympic Park. Dire Straits played 21 shows there in 1986, setting the record for any artist on one tour. The Australian leg of Live Aid in July 1985, headlined by INXS, was staged here under the name Oz For Africa. George Harrison made a surprise appearance at a Deep Purple concert a year before. Pink’s Funhouse Tour Live in Australia DVD in 2009, the top selling DVD of the decade with 30 platinum certifications, was recorded at the Sydney Entertainment Centre.

Other artists who recorded albums and videos/ DVDs here included David Bowie, Icehouse and Powderfinger. The runaway success Australian retro arena tour Long Way To The Top in 2002, which played to 160,000 over 18 sell-outs, recorded its Sep.14 and Sept. 16 shows at the venue.

Chugg Entertainment’s Michael Chugg, who co-promoted Long Way To The Top and booked many international and Australian acts at the Centre, admitted, “It was never a pretty building but it changed everything. Since 1970 after Sydney Stadium closed, international acts had to play outdoors until the SEC opened.” The venue’s general manager Steve Hevern, who now moves on to the top job at Sydney's Allphones Arena, said that the Centre’s 4,000 concerts hosted “the best of Australian and international performers as well as our talent development program. It was not a state of the art venue but our customer service was high.”