Published on theMusic.com.au, Nov 2018
“It’s very hard for me to believe it’s been 30 years, especially considering I was there from the very beginning,” begins entertainment industry legend Molly Meldrum on the anniversary of beloved Melbourne venue Rod Laver Arena opening.
Flashback to the ‘80s when Countdown was one of Australia’s biggest shows and pub-rock was at its finest and there as a void in the state’s venue landscape, something Meldrum noted more than most.
“We had nothing really,” he recalls. “So it was a dream come true that they were going to have something there and have entertainment there as well.
“[Rod Laver Arena] is not just part of Melbourne’s venue landscape, but the world’s, and it’s something that maybe we take for granted. It was something that I thought was an impossible dream.”
The first music event at Rod Laver Arena was AC/DC on February 4, 1988, which Meldrum describes as “a magical concert”, but his involvement with the venue far pre-dates that as he was on the board.
“They had the meetings around 7:30am – for a person like myself, that was hard,” he laughs.
The board meetings were often a professional affair, so Meldrum rocking up late and walking through a construction site with bare feet didn’t sit well with a few of the other members. “I went in there and apologised profusely,” he tells.
As a fan of not only music but also tennis, overseeing the venue’s development and construction was a mind-blowing experience for Meldrum.
“I had the privilege of meeting the man himself [Rod Laver], and he is one of the most modest humans you could meet. He deserves to have that top stadium named after him,” he says.
“Just watching this amazing arena being built, I had to pinch myself.”
Since its completion, it’s become one of the world’s most well-regarded venues, with Justin Timberlake currently holding the record for highest attendance at the venue, bringing 16,183 punters to the space in 2007, while Pink’s 2013 run, The Truth About Love Tour, holds the record for most shows by an artist in a single run.
“Justin, Pink and Acca Dacca all loved that venue and said it was one of the best in the world…the acoustics are perfect.”
It truly is the heart of the Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Precinct, a hotspot for music, arts, sport and more that, in Molly’s mind, is almost perfect.
“The only thing I would like to see change is with Margaret Court Arena – I wish they’d give a new name to that,” he says.
“I think the name should be the original name of that area and that part.”
He’s witnessed multiple highlights at the venue over the years, but nothing beats seeing local acts put on a good show, one of which caught his eye the other week and he says would be a “dream” to one day see headline a venue like Rod Laver Arena.
“I went to the Age Music Victoria Awards the other night, which was fantastic. The talent that night was just unbelievable and there’s a musician called Baker Boy, who was sensational; he is the next big thing,” he says.
“That would be a dream come true for me – if he could headline a concert a Rod Laver and fill the house out.”
Speaking of local and emerging acts, Meldrum’s a fan of new ABC music show The Set, stating, “we definitely needed it”.
And as far as a Countdown revival goes, he thinks “it will happen”.
“I think it’ll eventually happen and it has to be in that [original] Countdown timeslot with all young people hosting it, looking after it,” he tells.
“There’s so much young talent around this country and they should do a show like that. The old Countdown timeslot would be absolutely perfect for it.
“I think that’s what’s missing from the music scene at the moment – we don’t have a definitive show that can really focus on all this.”
To celebrate its 30th anniversary, Rod Laver Arena has announced a Golden Ticket competition and series of murals around Melbourne by Justine McAllister, one of which features Meldrum.
The Golden Ticket will give its recipient a double pass to all events at Rod Laver Arena from February to December 2019, with those wanting to enter invited to share a photo of any one of murals or submit their favourite memories of Rod Laver Arena via social media using the hashtag #RLA30.
“That is a dream for anyone to win that one,” he enthuses, before adding, “I’ll give [the winner] one of my hats.”
You can find out more information here.
Check out theGuide for all upcoming gigs at Rod Laver Arena.