A visual history of Sydney’s grandest outdoor stage
Online Content Developer
20 Jun 2017
In the spring of 1996, thousands of Australians spilled across the Forecourt, full moon glinting above the tip of the main sail.
Some claim at least a hundred thousand people squeezed onto the Monumental Steps; others recall it reached a quarter of a million. To those thousands, frontman Neil Finn bid farewell with one last song. Hey now, hey now … don’t dream it’s over, he sang. It wouldn’t be the last time Crowded House would play (their 2016 reunion on the Forecourt can be watched in full on Stan).
“Our manager at the time thought it was a great way to go out with a bang,” Finn would tell ABC's 7.30 twenty years later. “But I thought it was a bit too grandiose.”
There’s something that makes music different out in the open air. Panoramic sound framed by the temple-like steps, the ocean breeze on a clear night, the backdrop of Sydney ferries and the Harbour Bridge.
Neil Finn and Crowded House perform on the Forecourt, 1996
Since time immemorial Tubowgule, the land on which the Opera House stands, has been a place of gathering and belonging for Australia's First Peoples. The Gadigal and Sydney basin clans met on the tidal island, dance, sing, feast, exchange knowledge and share stories. Each year Dance Rites pays tribute to this long history, seeing the powerful coming together of traditional customs, language and contemporary culture, with hundreds of First Nations dancers from all around Australia and performers from around the world.
“It’s one of the grandest gestures the city can make,” Ben Marshall told The Sydney Morning Herald. As the Opera House’s Head of Contemporary Music, Marshall is one of the people tasked with picking the right people to play.
“We’re acutely conscious of saving it for what we see as appropriate artistic moments.” A legendary run of Chet Faker, Florence + the Machine and Tame Impala shows held a record 24,000 people in the space of a few weekends.
The National have been one of the few to grace the stage of the Forecourt on multiple occasions, delivering a near religious experience in 2014 and again in 2018.
Two Australian music icons, John Butler Trio and Missy Higgins reunited to deliver an unmissable double-bill on the famous famous harbourside stage on Valentine's Day 2019. The incredible performance was part of their first tour together in nearly 15 years.