Dunedin in the Pink

What a buzz.The Ed Sheeran concerts left a broad afterglow in Dunedin, and the Pink concert on Saturday night  achieved the same result, albeit not quite on the same scale.

Again, the South welcomed a superstar of today. Again, people converged from around the South Island. Again, great nights were had by just about everyone.

The styles are somewhat different - basically a performer with a guitar compared to a glitzy spectacular. But the enthusiasm was the same.

The small size of Dunedin has its drawbacks. The airport is not big enough for the biggest planes carrying concert gear. Much of it had to be trucked from Christchurch. Flight frequency and aerial connections with other centres are far inferior to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. And Dunedin is a long way from  other substantial population centres.

But Dunedin’s dimensions also have advantages. Forsyth Barr Stadium, the University of Otago, the Otago Polytechnic and town’s restaurants and bars are all within walking distance. Once in Dunedin, nowhere is far away.

At the same time, the concert becomes an extra big deal in a smaller city, receiving real prominence. The community can embrace the event so that it induces a city-wide sense of excitement  - even for those who would not recognise a single Pink song.

As well, there is a sense of destination in travelling to Dunedin from so many far-flung places. For visitors from Canterbury or beyond, the concert experience is combined with a road trip of substance, an outing and adventure away from home territory.

Dunedinites, who have invested so much in the stadium both financially and emotionally, have to be concerned that Christchurch will  - even if it still takes a few more years - upstage the city with a flasher and slightly larger auditorium and sporting arena. Maybe, though, if Dunedin can continue to embrace concerts with such vigour and can provide such a special weekend for out-of-towners, it can remain competitive against its much bigger brother up the road.

As it is, southerners often have to head to Christchurch. Bob Dylan last month is just one of a string of performers to visit Christchurch and not Dunedin.

Although the stadium itself protects from rain and wind, the city was fortunate Saturday was such a glorious day. Despite a hint of a chill in the air, the sun shone and the city, its hills, harbour and coast sparkled.

As usual, and as expected, taxi shortages spurred some upset. The lack of taxis is to be expected immediately after the event. One hopes, however, the taxi companies did their best to have all possible drivers on the road through the bulk of the night, both for the city’s reputation and because of taxi company interest in encouraging this form of transport.

When Pink came to the Dunedin Town Hall in 2002 she was not the superstar she is now and Dunedin lacked a covered stadium. What a difference 16 years can make.

Dunedin, led by Terry Davies and his stadium crew, has proved again it can host huge events.  Next up is Shania Twain, on December 22. It is a while since she was atop the charts, and her genre is dissimilar. But, having sold more than 100 million records, she should still be a good draw.

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