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Sydney welcomes back arena-sized gigs with Bernard Fanning show

With captivating performances by Powderfinger's Bernard Fanning and Matt Corby, Sydney lapped its first arena-sized gigs in months.

Sydney has woken from her sleep when it comes to arena-sized gigs, and you can't wash off our hearts.

There was a tangible sense of joy on Saturday night when Bernard Fanning headlined the second of two shows at Qudos Bank Arena called Greatest Southern Nights, Australia's largest indoor festival since March, intended to kickstart ailing live music industry after coronavirus wiped it out for months.

An eagar crowd laps Bernard Fanning's Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney
An eagar crowd laps Bernard Fanning's Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney

Merci, Mercy kicked off proceedings before Matt Corby took the stage in his bare feet to remind Sydneysiders how captivating live music can be in an arena setting.

Supported by a tight, festival-hardened band and bright visuals, the audience couldn't take their eyes off the singer-songwriter, who rose from Australian idol pin-up to favorite Triple J.

Corby's songs – including crowd favourites Brother, Resolution, and Miracle Love – begin subdued but eventually build up to cathartic heights on his soaring vocals' back.

Arena gigs are back ... Qudos Bank Arena crowd for Southern Nights

Former Powderfinger frontman Bernard Fanning was in cheeky spirits for his slot, referring to Footloose for being unable to stand up and dance due to strict COVID-19 protocols.

Supported by his band The Black Fins, Fanning's set leant in his solo work's dad-rock vibes.

The crowd enjoyed his superb tune Songbird from his most popular album Tea and Compassion and was stunned in silence by Departures' stirring four-part harmonies (Blue Toowong Skies).

The show was less successful when Fanning allowed his band to wander into extended jams, including some obscure tributes to Black Sabbath, David Bowie, and Fats Domino.

Bernard Fanning's stirring Powderfinger favorite These days was a highlight of the package
Bernard Fanning's stirring Powderfinger favorite These days was a highlight of the package

Fanning was at his finest when he took off the decorations, making his song craft shine. His voice remains distinct and strong, along with a lone acoustic guitar or piano.

Despite a promising solo career, Fanning always threw a bone to Powderfinger devotees with a stripped-back take on the band's hit Vulture Street Sunsets.

The highlight of the album, however, was his version of Powderfinger's signature tune These Days, whose lyrics acquired extra significance in an unpredictable 2020.

His success was enough to make the audience leap out at the end of the set, in violation of COVID rules.

"What's your standing up? Punks. Punks. Dirty punks," answered Fanning.

While the punters were trapped in their seats and socially distanced for most of the night, the rousing shows were enough to reawaken the appetite for live music and a sense of community – something Australia urgently needs as this difficult year draws to a close.

Bernard Fanning - Wish You Well