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City Focus: Brisbane

Paris, Los Angeles, Brisbane. Holiday destinations, yes. And all three are future Olympic cities.

For those keeping score, Brisbane will host the summer Olympics and Paralympics for the first time in 2032, becoming the third Australian city to host the quadrennial sporting feast, after Melbourne (1956) and Sydney (2000). The capital of Queensland, the so-called Sunshine State, has an enviable reputation in music and sport. When Brisbane hosts the Games, it’ll showcase the best in both fields.

Brisbane summers can be scorching; and its music scene is hot. Powderfinger, Savage Garden, The Veronicas, Mallrat, Thelma Plum, Ball Park Music, Busby Marou, Katie Noonan, The Chats, Lobby Loyde, The Jungle Giants, Confidence Man, Sheppard, Kate Miller-Heidke, Violent Soho, and Kev Carmody are just some of the stars who’ve emerged from Brisbane.

Keith Urban spent his formative years in Brisbane before moving to Nashville and becoming a superstar of country music.
The Bee Gees’ legendary career in music began when, in the late 1950s, the brothers Gibb landed a regular gig at the Redcliffe Speedway, north of Brisbane. Barry, Maurice, and Robin signed their first record contract on the family’s kitchen table in Redcliffe, not far from a commemorative walkway that recognises the trio’s achievements, Bee Gees Way.

The capital of Queensland, the so-called Sunshine State, has an enviable reputation in music and sport

Critically celebrated indie-rock band The Go-Betweens hail from Brisbane and are remembered with a bridge named in their honour. Punk trailblazers The Saints were formed in Brisbane and are feted with a colourful mural on Upper Roma Street, near the band’s Petrie Terrace shared house where they honed their legendary live performance.

Roma Street, in the Central Business District, will be a major hub when the Olympics come to town. A new 18,000-capacity arena complex – Brisbane Live – will be developed above Roma Street railway station and serviced by underground rail and bus.

Brisbane Live “promises to place Brisbane among the elite cities of the world as an entertainment precinct,” Tim Worton, ASM Global (APAC) group director arenas, tells IQ. “It won’t just be a venue, it will be a destination – one that will be the envy of all cities in our region. It is a seriously exciting project.”

The existing 13,000-capacity Brisbane Entertainment Centre (BEC) in Boondall, north Brisbane, is one of the world’s most successful arenas. When Pink sold out 11 dates at the BEC on her 2009 Funhouse tour, the venue paid thanks by dedicating its Door 6 ladies’ toilets to the Philadelphia pop superstar (she even cut the ribbon on the “Pink Toilets”).

The existing 13,000-capacity Brisbane Entertainment Centre in north Brisbane is one of the world’s most successful arenas

Brisbane has a rich recent history of organising major international events, including the 1982 Commonwealth Games, the 1988 World Expo, and the 2001 Goodwill Games. Neighbouring city the Gold Coast, home of Amy Shark, hosted the 2018 Commonwealth Games and is part of the mix with the 2032 Olympics.

Fortitude Valley is the beating heart of Brisbane’s live music scene; it’s Australia’s only designated entertainment precinct and the home to a growing Walk of Fame, an initiative of trade body QMusic. Each September, artists and executives from around the globe gather in the Valley for Bigsound – the conference and showcase event.

The city’s range of venues cater to new, local talent through to the biggest acts in the world. The Gabba, which hosted Adele’s concerts in 2017, will be demolished and rebuilt in time to serve as the main, 50,000-capacity venue for the Olympics. The 52,500 Suncorp Stadium hosted Red Hot Chili Peppers and Ed Sheeran earlier in 2023 and will welcome Foo Fighters later in the year.

The outdoor Riverstage, inspired by the floating concerts venue from the 1988 Expo, can hold 9,000 punters. Other popular venues for top-tier local acts and internationals include the Fortitude Music Hall, the Tivoli, the Zoo, the Triffid, the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, and the newly refurbished Princess Theatre.

Brisbane’s top promoters include club and dance music expert Michael Watt and D-J Wendt

Brisbane’s leading scene builder is Paul Piticco, co-founder of Secret Sounds (with Jessica Ducrou), founder of Dew Process, and former manager of Powderfinger. Piticco is also a member of the leadership team behind the Triffid and 3,300-capacity Fortitude Music Hall.

The Comiskey Group, a family-owned company based in Brisbane’s north, operates a string of venues, including Eatons Hill Hotel, a popular live venue with a 2,100-capacity ballroom and Sandstone Point Hotel, a sprawling spot across from Bribie Island, which hosts a range of concerts and festivals throughout the year.

Elsewhere, Woodford Folk Festival founder and director Bill Hauritz recently passed the baton to the event’s general manager, Amanda Jackes, following his 35th year in the job. The most recent event, held over six days from 27 December 2022, the first after a two-year pause due to the pandemic, welcomed more than 120,000 attendees.

Brisbane’s top promoters include club and dance music expert Michael Watt and D-J Wendt, owner of Demand Pty Ltd, a company that specialises in producing and promoting concert tours and theatrical productions in Australia and both sides of the Atlantic for theatre and arena productions.

Brisbane is also home to ASM Global’s Asia Pacific headquarters; Australia’s leading independent ticketing company, Oztix; and Stephen Green’s SGC Media Group, one of Australia’s largest independent music marketing and media firms.


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Qld greenlights another new AEG entertainment district

The state government of Queensland, Australia, has approved plans for a A$2bn (US$1.5m) arena-centred entertainment district in the city of Brisbane.

Brisbane Live – a joint venture between the government-backed Cross River Rail Delivery Authority (CRRDA) and AEG’s Australasian/Asian operation, AEG Ogden – will be centred on a 17,000-capacity arena and also include outdoor amphitheaters, cinemas, restaurants, bars and hotels. The new complex will be built over the Roma Street railway line, in the heart of Brisbane’s central business district.

The development, which will be largely privately funded, mirrors similar AEG developments at The O2 in London, LA Live in Los Angeles, Mercedes Platz in Berlin and the recently announced Nashville Yards in Tennessee.

“We have been working closely with Harvey Lister to make sure we create the best entertainment … precinct in Australia”

The project has won bipartisan political support, with the governing Labor party and opposition Liberal National Party (LNP) both endorsing Brisbane Live, which is tied into the larger Cross River Rail underground railway development. State deputy premier Jackie Trad says she hopes to “create the best entertainment and integrated transport precinct in Australia”.

Harvey Lister, chairman of AEG Ogden, tells local paper the Courier Mail he welcomes public support for the project. “It’s very encouraging that the government appears to have recognised the potential for Brisbane Live to be an activator that could eventually see the whole Roma Street precinct become an exciting part of the state’s capital city,” he comments.

AEG Ogden also operates the 14,500-cap. Brisbane Entertainment Centre, which opened in 1986.


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