Tina Arena, like a fine wine, just keeps getting better and better with age. Her voice is, quite simply, without peer.
She didn’t miss a note at the Civic Theatre. Not one. And she is the consummate performer – professional and technically brilliant but with effortless grace, poise, elegance and good old-fashioned Aussie humour.
She is who she is and she calls a spade a spade. Arena is one of us – just more talented a singer than most.
But tonight she was on her best behaviour. She only let one swear word slip when she complained about her tea being cold – and even then, the word was muttered under her breath.
Arena’s Innocence to Understanding tour charts a successful 40-year career which began with singing lessons at the age of seven.
Three years later she was cast on Young Talent Time and known as “Tiny Tina”. The rest is history.
Arena branched out into the pop world as a solo artist in 1990 with hit single I Need Your Body. Refreshingly, the 49-year-old has no cringe factor when it comes to her earlier material (unlike many artists) and celebrates each song for what it was at the time she released it, what it is now and where it got her.
She clearly enjoyed singing the synth-heavy The Machine’s Breaking Down from Strong As Steel, for example, and bopped along, ’90s style.
That being said, wow, she has come a long way since then.
Arena is a member of an exclusive club, having reached the giddy heights of being cast as Eva Peron in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s upcoming production Evita.
But Tuesday night was all about her personal musical journey. Chains. Burn. Sorrento Moon (I Remember). Heaven Help My Heart. Now I Can Dance. Wasn’t It Good. If I Didn’t Love You. I Want To Know What Love Is.
The hits just kept coming with many a crowd singalong.
Arena’s stage presence and down-to-earth attitude meant every eye was on her. You can’t help but warm to her. And don’t let her impeccable voice and appearance fool you. She is no aloof diva. She loves a chat and is honest – her manager might even say to a fault. It’s all, however, part of her appeal.
“In 1994 when Don’t Ask came out I didn’t get to enjoy it,” she told the audience.
“The pressure was on. Looking back now I never had a moment to enjoy anything. Everything was a blur.
“But not the songs. Each and every one was able to gracefully detach itself and to this day I can look back on a song like Wasn’t It Good with a smile on my face.”
Arena gave a shout to Novocastrian singer Morgan Evans and his parents. He has recorded a cover of If I Didn’t Love You and is currently overseas and the pride on Arena’s face was evident.
At the conclusion of the song, though, she paused.
“Excuse me, I just got a hot flush,” she informed the audience, who laughed.
“At the beginning I wanted to curl up in a ball but now I’m fine.
“The secret is don’t take anything. That’s the Sicilian way, anyway.”
This was a memorable set from one of Australia’s most talented, unique and personable performers. Intelligent, articulate and laugh-out-loud funny, Arena deserves every accolade she gets and more.