Hunters and Collectors take on the curse of the AFL grand final.
Yeah, but will it be better than Meat Loaf?
Following the news that Hunters and Collectors will perform at the AFL grand final and Ricky Martin will perform at the NRL equivalent, this question reflects what is now the official criterion for judging footy grand final entertainment (and what Alan Kohler no doubt will have graph for on the ABC News business report soon enough): the Meat Index.
Not that long ago the measuring stick for the musical performances played before boofy blokes ran into each other for a couple of hours was either Billy Idol going (mercifully) silent when the sound failed, Angry Anderson (sadly) anything but silent in the back of a blue Batmobile or maybe the stars of Neighbours doing a mass murderer of the national anthem. If you saw something better than those lowlights you were considered to have emerged from the experience relatively well.
Bat out of hell ... Meat Loaf performs during the 2011 AFL Grand Final. Photo: Getty Images
But since the man who sang Bat Out Of Hell performed like said demented bat at the 2011 AFL grand final – screeching, squawking, flailing blindly, hitting invisible walls - he has become the only real measure of what might be called the new PDAs, or public displays of awfulness.
Which is a little bit unfair because history and circumstance have never been that kind to grand final performances in Australia. While both major football codes would like to think they have the potential to turn pre-game and half-time entertainment into our own Super Bowl moment (sans nipple flash presumably) and their marketing mantra is about the “match day experience” rather than, you know, the match itself, we've never come close to the dream.
The truth is anyone performing is on a hiding to nothing with their two or three song performance. Sound is inevitably heavily compromised, generally played through the stadium's PA or lightweight, temporary sound systems made to be quickly carried on and taken off the field. No one sounds good this way. (That said, Meat Loaf sounded just as bad in the concerts he played elsewhere in Australia on that 2011 tour.)
Often enough, either the full band or at least the musical backing is pre-recorded and the artists are expected to mime. This isn't the worst thing given TV performances and even occasional ARIA Awards have required similar “acting”. However, as Jet found out in 2007, and Idol found out much earlier, when the backing track wobbles or fails altogether, you're really on your own.
Then there are the natural incongruities. And I don't mean American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson singing at the NRL (twice) or Lionel Ritchie singing at the AFL – oddly enough both of them earned at least grudging respect. I mean the NRL having You Am I, avowed non-league fans (frontman Tim Rogers these days spruiks his beloved AFL) blast away, or West Australians Eskimo Joe do the same rather than, say, inviting the Hoodoo Gurus return.
The AFL, notwithstanding Meat Loaf and Ritchie, tends to prefer homegrown talent, many of them Melburnians or longstanding locals, such as Paul Kelly or Hunters and Collectors. The NRL, notwithstanding You Am I and Jessica Mauboy, is keener on the big flashy Americans such as Good Charlotte and Clarkson, or Ricky Martin. What this says about each competition or each city is up to the sociologists.
What we can say is that the entertainment options are unlikely to be the primary concern of the 100,000 people at the G or the Olympic stadium. Most of them just want the game to start, or re-start.
A goodly number - particularly among those old enough to remember people saying things like goodly number – probably wouldn't care if we returned to the marching girls and military bands tooting away mid-field while everyone else was still fiddling with pies, flags and working out the best insult for the match officials.
Let's be honest, in the battle between rock and footy on that last day of the season, football is the only winner but there are oh-so-many ways for musicians and music fans to lose. And lose badly. Ain't that right, Meat?