Ed Sheeran served as a surprise international guest at Wednesday night’s state funeral of Michael Gudinski, with the English superstar appearing at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena to pay tribute to the late icon.
Sheeran was one of the many artists who paid their respects to Gudinski in the days following his unexpected passing, which saw the Australian music industry lose one of their biggest and most revered names. Gudinski had previously toured Sheeran in Australia, with his 2018 tour breaking Dire Straits’ 1986 record for most tickets sold, with sales in excess of one million.
“It’s so hard to put into words how much Michael meant to me, and to all of us who knew him,” Sheeran said on Instagram. “Michael was a tornado of joy. You would know he arrived in the building just by hearing the chaotic bark of his, and you could feel the room get excited about the arrival of his presence.”
“We were, first and foremost, friends,” he continued. “He was a father figure and mentor to me, but also we enjoyed the peaks of our touring career together in 2018, breaking the record for most tickets sold in Australia.”
While a state funeral for Gudinski was announced one day after his passing, Sheeran responded by flying to Australia with the intent of spending the required two weeks in quarantine to perform at the service.
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Taking to the stage following appearances by the likes of Jimmy Barnes, Paul Kelly, and Mia Wray, Sheeran was humble and self-aware, noting how lucky he was to be able to appear in Australia given the events of the last year. “I know it’s a difficult thing to get into this country and I don’t take it for granted either,” he noted.
Armed with just an acoustic guitar, Sheeran shared renditions o “Castle on The Hill” and “The A Team” before showcasing a new song called “Visiting Hours” which he had written for the event while in quarantine.
“I wish that heaven had visiting hours so I could just swing by and ask your advice,” he sung. “What would you do in my situation? I haven’t a clue how I’d even raise them. What would you do? ‘Cause you always knew what’s right.”
Visibly overcome with emotion, Sheeran briefly stopped his performance before finishing the song and swiftly exiting the stage.
Sheeran later appeared onstage with Kylie Minogue for a performance of “All The Lovers”, and her version of “The Loco-Motion”, which was noted for being Minogue’s debut single, released on Gudinski’s Mushroom label.
The rest of the evening was punctuated by video messages from many of Gudinski’s friends and colleagues, including the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, the Eagles’ Joe Walsh, Taylor Swift, Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, and Queens of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme, who all expressed their sorrow at the devastating loss experienced by the Australian industry.
The night was closed out by an exuberant cover of The Easybeats’ “Good Times”, which Jimmy Barnes and INXS had covered for Joel Schumacher’s 1987 film The Lost Boys. Recruiting all the other performers who had appeared throughout the evening – including Vika and Linda, Mark Seymour, Diesel, and Mahalia Barnes – the track appeared as not only a fitting send-off for Gudinski, but a true celebration of his life, legacy, and enduring influence.