Generation X claims New Year's Eve

The midnight New Years Eve fireworks over Sydney Harbour, viewed from Mrs Macquaries Point in Sydney. 31st December 2017 Photo: Janie Barrett .

The midnight New Years Eve fireworks over Sydney Harbour, viewed from Mrs Macquaries Point in Sydney. 31st December 2017 Photo: Janie Barrett .

Oh, ABC - what were you thinking?

I thought we had a deal. You get to cover the New Year's Eve celebrations and mostly make a total hash of it and we in the media are blessed with the easiest night of shooting fish in a barrel on offer.

Instead, on Sunday you confirmed that 2017 was indeed one of the strangest years in a long time - turning on a near-flawless show that delighted viewers, involved precisely zero cock-ups or embarrassments and helped viewers put the happy back into Happy New Year.

The secret was clearing the decks of anyone inclined to talk too much and handing the night over to people who could sing, in the form of a nostalgia-heavy, Countdown-inspired live show that left hosts Charlie Pickering and Zan Rowe free to avoid the pitfalls of previous broadcasts and simply guide us swiftly from one musical highlight to the next.

In short, the hosts got out of the way and they let the party unfold.

Here, in the two-and-a-half-hour span from 9.30pm to midnight, was confirmation that while the Baby Boomers and the Millennials have been spitting and sniping amongst themselves, and about life in general in recent years, it is the mostly ignored Generation X that has quietly hijacked the choppy waters of mainstream entertainment.

This was Gen X heaven (audience-wise, the crowd most likely to be home with the kids on December 31, and nostalgia-wise, tapping into the idea that the 70s and 80s are to this decade what the 50s and 60s were to the 70s and 80s.)

We opened with a back-to-back romp through past hits from Jimmy Barnes, John Paul Young, Marcia Hines and a knockout Kate Ceberano. Over the rest of the show, the producers deployed an army of top-shelf talent of a different generation - Phil Jamieson, Casey Donovan, Mahalia Barnes, Stella Donnelly, Isaiah Firebrace - to bring new faces to old music. Everyone got a run - ABBA, the Divinyls, AC/DC, Cyndi Lauper, Whitney Houston, Goanna, Stevie Wright. Acts were linked by brief but useful interludes with Pickering and Rowe - the latter there to provide context and history for the music to come.

It was, essentially, a great Australian pub show - but on the most glorified stage, performed by a range of stellar talents, backed by a knockout band whose efforts all but stole the night, and delivering a New Year's Eve that barely paused for breath in between moment after moment of tight-as-a-drum entertainment.

It ended with John Paul Young leading the entire cast of performers in the always irresistible Love Is In The Air, and as they all trooped back on stage for this finale it appeared the talent had enjoyed the evening as much as the crowd at Sydney Harbour and the viewing army at home.

An awkward hiccup ahead of the final countdown saw Pickering issue a free-for-all on local cops - he later apologised for the "slip of the tongue" where he accidentally urged revellers to "kill", rather than "kiss", patrolling police officers.

But when the nominal main entertainment of the night - the traditional blowing up of the bridge - happened at midnight, for a change we could say this: it would have been a terrific show even without the fireworks.

This story Generation X claims New Year's Eve first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.