Shortly before Tuesday’s big race it became apparent John Paul Young had been parachuted in to replace Swift. The ARIA Hall of Fame artist sung his ’78 hit single Love is in the Air. He was joined on stage by Jimmy Barnes’s daughter Mahalia Barnes, who performed John Farnham’s classic Australian song, You’re the Voice.
One racegoer, Aidan Johnson from Adelaide, originally bought tickets to the Cup specifically to watch Swift perform. He even had a suit specifically tailored in the colours of the pop star’s latest album. Mr Johnson said the pre-race entertainment wasn’t very notable.
“We had a good day but at the same time we are both very disappointed that Taylor Swift wasn’t here to open the race,” he said. “It would have been a thousand times better.”
Young and Barnes were supported by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir. A Victoria Racing Club spokeswoman described Tuesday’s pre-race entertainment as a “medley of the unofficial anthems of Australia”. Australian Idol competitor Anthony Callea performed the national anthem as planned.
“It’s an absolute honour to be asked to sing the national anthem and represent your country on the world stage and as a Melbourne boy, being here for the Melbourne Cup is a massive honour and I hope I don’t stuff it up,” Callea told Studio 10 panellists on Monday.
“I’m nervous, I’m definitely nervous,” he added.
Callea is expected to donate his performance fee to an equine rehabilitation organisation.
When initial news of Swift’s Melbourne Cup performance was announced it sparked an immediate response from the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses, which has protested outside the Cup every year. The animal rights group renewed its online #NupToTheCup campaign, calling on Swift to pull out of the performance. The pop star later confirmed she wouldn’t be attending but cited a scheduling clash.
“Regrettably, Taylor is no longer able to make it to this year’s Melbourne Cup,” Mushroom Events’ Michael Gudinski said at the time. “Changes to her Asian promo schedule have made it logistically impossible for her to be here. To all of Taylor’s fans, we hope to see Taylor in Australia in 2020.”
Fans who bought tickets to the Cup after Swift’s performance was announced were eligible for a refund. VRC CEO Neil Wilson acknowledged at the time the cancellation was “disappointing for everyone”.
Broede Carmody is a culture reporter at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald
Lucy Manly is a reporter and gossip columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald and Sun-Herald.