The best and worst AFL Grand Final performances

The best and worst AFL Grand Final performances

Photo: Anton Corbijn
Words by Tobias Handke

It’s a fairly hit-and-miss affair.

The AFL Grand Final entertainment has become as talked about as the game itself over the past decade, with fans clamouring to find out which big name act will be taking the stage before the first bounce.

This year’s festivities are headlined by legendary wordsmith Paul Kelly, with newcomers Tones And I and Dean Lewis also getting their chance to shine in front of 100,000 fans. Kelly and co. will join a long and diverse list of international and local talent who have tried to win over the easily-provoked AFL crowd on the final Saturday in September. In the lead up to this year’s GF, here’s a look at the best and worst musical performances from the past three decades.

Worst: Angry Anderson (Hawthorn v West Coast, 1991)

Standing atop a blue, Batmobile-esque vehicle while belting out ‘Bound For Glory’, Rose Tattoo’s Angry Anderson became the laughing stock of Australia. While the pint-sized singer tried his best to get the crowd on side, the heavy winds and three-second delay caused by the microphones resulted in one of the worst Grand Final pre-entertainment performances of all time.

Best: Tom Jones & Ed Sheeran (Sydney v Hawthorn, 2014)

Hoping to appease fans new and old, the AFL enlisted legendary Welsh vocalist Tom Jones and English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran for its 2014 entertainment. Sheeran opened proceedings before Jones joined him for a rendition of the Prince hit ‘Kiss’. The then 74-year-old Jones quickly won the crowd over with three of his biggest hits, his cover of Randy Newman’s ‘Mama Told Me Not To Come’, ‘Delilah’ and his first Australian number one, ‘If I Only Knew’.

Worst: INXS (Collingwood v St. Kilda, 2010)

The death of frontman Michael Hutchence should have signalled the end of INXS, but the band were intent on milking the cow for all it’s worth, drafting a number of less-than-worthy vocalists as replacements. Canadian reality show winner J.D. Fortune may have been the worst of the bunch, and as you can see from the footage below, he put the final nail into the great Aussie band’s coffin.

Best: Lionel Richie (Collingwood v St. Kilda replay, 2010)

After INXS bombed at the drawn 2010 final the week before, the AFL was on the lookout for a big name to make an impact. Enter: Lionel Richie. Having just played a show in Hong Kong a few days earlier, Richie arrived at the big event on a sunny Melbourne afternoon and had fans up and about with a nostalgic trip through his ’80s classics. Opening with ‘Hello’, Richie performed all the hits, including ‘All Night Long’ and ‘Dancing On The Ceiling’.

Worst: Meat Loaf (Collingwood v Geelong, 2011)

On paper, it looked like a winning formula. Meat Loaf, the man responsible for huge hits such as ‘I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)’, ‘Bat Out of Hell’ and ‘You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth’, rocking out to a packed MCG on the grandest stage of them all. What fans got was 12 minutes of out of tune warbling from a struggling Meat Loaf who massacred his own tracks. It was an unforgettable performance, but for all the wrong reasons.

Best: The Killers (Adelaide v Richmond, 2017)

As a Crows supporter, this was one of the club’s darkest days, with the only joy coming from The Killers’ vibrant performance. Their six-song set was a blistering showcase of the Vegas band’s glitzy indie tunes. Frontman Brandon Flowers looked splendid in his baby blue jacket as he pumped the crowd up with hits ‘When You Were Young’, ‘Mr Brightside’ and an inspired cover of Midnight Oil’s ‘Forgotten Years’.

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