'Feeling the love': Rod Laver Arena's most memorable shows

'Feeling the love': Rod Laver Arena's most memorable shows

From tennis champions to pop stars, Rod Laver Arena has seen its fair share of celebrities.

The Melbourne institution first opened its doors 30 years ago. Since then, the stadium has witnessed everything from Eminem's anti-John Howard rant to Australia's own Kylie Minogue frolicking above a giant water fountain.

Here's three decades of highlights at one of Melbourne's premiere live entertainment venues.

U2 singer Bono performing during the 1990s.

U2 singer Bono performing during the 1990s.Credit:AP

U2, 1989


There would be far more extravagant and lengthy tours to come, but when U2 touched down in Melbourne for seven spectacular nights at Rod Laver Arena in October 1989, the whole world was feeling the love.

The Irish rockers’ Lovetown tour arrived a year after their Rattle and Hum album, but the icing on this musical feast was touring partner and blues legend BB King. Local favourites Weddings Parties Anything also played, however the biggest sing-a-longs at these brilliant shows came with the new hits Desire, All I Want Is You as well as a cover of All Along the Watchtower.

When U2 next came to town in 1993, they played two shows at the MCG as part of their epic Zoo TV tour, but these ’89 shows at RLA will live long in the memories of those who saw the spotlight growing ever wider on Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullins Jr. The band has gone on to sell 170 million albums around the world.

Eminem performing at Rod Laver Arena in 2001.

Eminem performing at Rod Laver Arena in 2001. Credit:The Age

Eminem, 2001

Eminem's show at the turn of the century is among Rod Laver's most-memorable because of all the fuss it kicked-up. It was, of course, an election year. Then prime minister John Howard hoped to appeal to his base by denouncing the American rapper over lyrics he thought were both "sickening" and "offensive".

After some uncertainty regarding Eminem's visa – not to mention numerous headlines – the highly-anticipated show went ahead. It was the rapper's first time down under.

But he couldn't let things go without one last spray at Mr Howard.

"I want to buy a house and move here, but I don't think your prime minister would like it," he told the crowd. "They almost didn't let me into your country. So I brought a gun with me. I'm kidding, I'm kidding."

Kylie Minogue wows fans at Melbourne's  Rod Laver in 2011.

Kylie Minogue wows fans at Melbourne's Rod Laver in 2011. Credit:The Age

Kylie Minogue, 2011

It's not every day that a pop star insists on setting up a fountain in the middle of a stadium. But that's exactly what Kylie Minogue did back in 2011 for her Aphrodite tour.

Minogue sung some of her biggest hits to more than 25,000 adoring fans. However the biggest screams came when her backup dancers were propelled into the air alongside water jets, spraying those lucky enough to nab a front-row seat.

Minogue's neo-classical inspired costumes also reinforced the idea that she is Australia's pop princess. More than one costume has ended up in an Australian exhibition.

Robert Smith of The Cure performing at Rod Laver Arena in 2016.

Robert Smith of The Cure performing at Rod Laver Arena in 2016.Credit:Paul Rovere

The Cure, 2016

A little more than 10 years since their previous tour the Cure returned two years ago to Melbourne and their adoring fans at Rod Laver Arena.

The evening generated as much sheer joy as this writer has ever seen at a live performance, coming four decades since the band formed in the southern English county of West Sussex. Founding member and frontman Robert Smith, his distinctive black hair still resembling a magnificent bird’s nest, made the decade long wait between tours worth it.

Now close to 60, Smith and his bandmates played no less than 35 songs, including four stunning encores, themselves totalling 12 songs including Why Can’t I be You?, A Forest, Let’s Go to Bed, The Lovecats, Boys Don’t Cry and The Caterpillar.

Everybody should experience such a show at least once in their life. Instantly recognisable and impossible to stand still to, the Cure were hot on that chilly July night.

Roger Waters performing as part of his Us + Them tour.

Roger Waters performing as part of his Us + Them tour.Credit:Kate Izor

Roger Waters, 2018

Roger Waters has proved time and time again that age is no barrier to an energetic, politically-charged performance. At 75 years of age, he's still got it.

The singer-songwriter brought his 157-show Us + Them tour to Australia earlier this year, juggling classic Pink Floyd tracks and with recent solo work. War and inequality have long been the subject of Waters' rage. The Melbourne leg of his world tour, which kicked off in February, was no different.

The popular singer and guitarist let giant, flying pigs drift around the stadium – so close attendees could almost touch them. The animals were emblazoned with anti-Trump imagery. The props certainly raised eyebrows among Rod Laver Arena staff, who hadn't ever seen anything like it.

P!NK performs at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on July 16.

P!NK performs at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on July 16. Credit:Jay Wennington

Pink, 2018

Pink soared over the crowd during her 2018 stadium shows. But so too did her bank account.

The American pop star sold more than half a million tickets during the Australian and New Zealand leg of her Beautiful Trauama World Tour. This meant the mother-of-two raked in more than $100 million dollars, earning her the title of the second-highest grossing artist of all time to visit down under (bested only by The Rolling Stones).

While Pink's stay in Australia was marred with ill-health and a string of rescheduled performances, the singer won back the crowd with a physically-demanding routine that saw her fly through the air and belt-out lyrics without her feet even touching the ground.

Martin Boulton is EG Editor at The Age and Shortlist Editor at the Sydney Morning Herald

Broede Carmody is an entertainment reporter at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald

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