Tina triumphs at first post-Covid Sydney show

Tina Arena on stage at the Aware Super Theatre, Sydney, during her "Enchanté" tour, Wednesday, 5 May, 2021. Photo: @_jjdavies_/@tinaarena/Instagram.

Review: Enchanté: The Songs Of Tina Arena, Wednesday, 5 May, Aware Super Theatre, Darling Harbour.

Tina Arena’s first post-Covid concert in Sydney saw the chanteuse at the top of her game, writes Danny Waterson.

★★★★

Tina Arena is an Australian music icon. With a career spanning five decades after well-known beginnings on the television program Young Talent Time, she has enjoyed major success since the 1990s with eight solo studio albums in English, three in French and popular songs including ‘Chains’, ‘Burn’ and ‘Heaven Help My Heart’. Theatre roles including Evita and Cabaret in Australia, and Notre-Dame de Paris and Chicago on London’s West End, plus numerous concert tours across Australia and Europe, kept her working until a Covid-19 enforced break in 2020.

Arena’s Enchanté Australian tour is the first major concert tour across the country since Covid-19. It began on Sunday night in Brisbane; tonight, the warm and welcoming audience at Sydney’s Aware Super Theatre was more than ready for Arena to take the stage for the second show in the run. 

The opening bars of ‘Symphony of Life’ signalled that live music had returned and the crowd erupted to applause and wild cheers as Arena appeared at the top of a staircase, dressed in black, draped in a glitter dress. She appeared humbled, appreciative to finally be on stage, as she took time between each song to talk to her audience.

“We’ve all been waiting for this,” she said gratefully, relieved to be doing what she loves. More hit songs followed; ‘Wasn’t It Good’ and a rousing rendition of ‘Heaven Help My Heart’, both lifted from Arena’s biggest-selling album, 1994’s Don’t Ask.

The stage itself was modern, with a state-of-the-art lighting system, plasma screens hanging above, staircase and mirrors behind Arena, who mostly kept to a central spot surrounded by her talented band of Australian musicians, led by musical director Dorian West (Dancing with the Stars, James Reyne, Wildland, Boom Crash Opera).

Throughout the evening, Arena would go on to have four costume changes, her ever stylish passion for supporting Australian designers on full display.

Tina Arena on stage at the Aware Super Theatre, Wednesday, 5 May, 2021. Photo: Danny Waterson.

I’ve been fortunate to see Arena perform many times over the years; the live concerts always showcase her amazing vocals and showmanship. The Enchanté tour is her bravest and most daring show to date. Leaving the classic pop concert formula behind, this show is akin to Barbra Streisand’s live show. An opportunity for an iconic diva to escape the typical greatest hits show and instead take control and perform the material of her choosing. Arena acknowledged as much, telling the audience: “At this stage of my career, I believe I’ve earned the right to do things my way.” 

This style of performance suits Arena perfectly, allowing her space to slowly move through the songs with feeling, discussion and emotion. During the show there were some minor technical difficulties which she graciously laughed off. Her good humour and banter was sprinkled throughout the evening. In fact the only flaw in this amazing show was perhaps the short lulls between songs.

The song choices were inspired and interesting. The show borrowed heavily from the Just Me album (2001) with deep cuts ‘Tangled’, ‘Something’s Gotta Change’ and a rousing version of ‘Woman’. We got a jazz-infused ‘Sorrento Moon’ featuring guest violinist Eric Avery (the show’s support act) and popular setlist staple ‘You Set Fire to My Life’, which got the crowd on their feet. At the conclusion of this song, Arena politely pleaded with venue security to allow the audience to indulge and let loose: “Go easy on them, please, we thank you and appreciate you.” 

The audience enraptured at Tina Arena’s Sydney concert on Wednesday, 5 May, 2021. Photo: Danny Waterson.

Highlights of the varied and entertaining set included a brave and beautiful cover of Kate Bush’s ‘This Woman’s Work’. “I grew up loving this song,” Arena declared. Elsewhere in the set, the Italian operatic song ‘Caruso’ saw her perform in Italian. It was a beautiful performance which once again showed her versatility. Surprising inclusions were ‘It’s As If We Never Said Goodbye’ from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Sunset Boulevard – a definite highlight for the audience – and a piano ballad version of Barry Manilow’s ‘Could It Be Magic’.

Arena’s last album was 2017’s Greatest Hits & Interpretations compilation, with the last original solo album Eleven released in 2015. During a quiet lull between songs an enthusiastic audience member yelled: “When is a new album coming Tina?” With a hint of determination in her voice, she replied; “I don’t do systems anymore, albums aren’t the future. You want something for your playlist, I’ll give you something for you playlists, stay tuned.” 

This month, Arena released her first original single in years titled ‘Church’, which is a modern pop anthem and sounds incredible live. Complete with guitar solos and killer chorus, which the crowd greeted enthusiastically.

Official music video for Tina Arena’s new single, ‘Church’. Video: Tina Arena/YouTube.

Another new song found its way into the show: ‘Dancing on Thin Ice’, an uptempo pop song which symbolises that her recording career certainly isn’t finished yet. 

Perhaps the most poignant moment during the show came with ‘Everybody Hurts’, the R.E.M. hit song from 1992. Not only lyrically aligned to current events in the world, Arena’s heartfelt delivery touched the 8,000-strong audience. 

Wrapping things up was the rarely performed song ‘Greatest Gift’ from the Don’t Ask album – complete with its positive message and choir-esque chorus – and finally, the huge hit ‘Chains’. “What else could it be?” Arena joked with the audience. ‘Chains’ once again showcased the band and Arena’s powerhouse vocals and stage presence. 

It was a fitting end to an entertaining evening and musical journey with one of Australia’s most iconic and enduring performers.

Enchsnté: The Songs of Tina Arena teaser video. Video: WIN Sports & Entertainment Centres/YouTube.

Enchanté: The Songs Of Tina Arena is touring Australia throughout May. The next NSW show will be at the WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong at 7.30pm Wednesday, 26 May, 2021. Tickets and further info available at www.ticketmaster.com.au/enchante-the-songs-of-tina-arena-wollongong-26-05-2021/event/1300595ECA754B26.

Tina Arena’s new single ‘Church’ is out now on all music download and streaming platforms.

Visit www.tinaarena.com for more on the tour and single.