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Live Review: Tina Arena @ The Tivoli – 06.09.2017

One of the first thoughts to arise as Tina Arena hit the stage was, “her legs are better than mine.” The vocal powerhouse is turning 50 this year, and yet the first Brisbane show of her “Innocence to Understanding” tour seemed to have time on its side. The Tivoli was set up with chairs, an indication of the average fan’s age, if nothing else, and although there was to be no dancing, both men and women in the crowd had no qualms about declaring their love loudly between songs.

Arena kept them waiting a while, an instrumental playing for several minutes before she or the band surfaced, but when she finally appeared, dressed elegantly in white, the crowd showed ample appreciation. Her voice was just as strong as ever through some of her older tracks, I Need Your Body and Heaven Help My Heart. She sang through an impressive catalogue of hits as though she were in the middle of conversation with the audience, almost interrupting herself with spectacular belts.

Through the first few songs, the stillness in the air and on the stage was captivating, a blank canvas to the backup singers’ warm harmonies, but even when the band kicked in, her vocals refused to be drowned out. Screams of adoration from the crowd had Arena on the verge of tears early in the show, and for a seasoned professional, she seemed to barely retain her composure.

The stage kept her youth well, and she looked almost angelic in her white dress beneath the glow of blinding stage lights. The band played with a reverence that expressed their admiration for her and her music, and the audience sat similarly entranced. After a handful of songs, she whipped out a cup of tea, the mature Australian woman’s alternative to a XXXX Gold, and gave an entirely unexpected, yet surprisingly brilliant, lecture on the ugliness of Brisbane’s architecture.

The tune changed dramatically with a flick of the maracas and a swing of the hips, a youthful twist Brisbane should probably have expected from Australia’s queen of age defiance. Angelic harmonies, hair flips, impressive vocal belts and incredible falsetto were never in short supply, but after 40 years in the public eye, it was Arena’s ever-energetic dance moves that surprised the crowd.

White noise died as Arena suddenly left the stage, returning several suspenseful minutes later in a glittery dress that could only be described as, “all leg and no subtlety.” Stronger than the disco vibe of The Machine’s Breaking Down was her composure and fierce dance skills in equally glittery six-inch heels. The crowd loved her fearless performance, almost as much as they loved her honest Aussie sense of humour, but there was nothing funny about her blistering performance of the next tune.

Not Still In Love With You was like the glitziest rock-meets-cabaret ever seen, dripping with emotion right until the end when Arena skipped off stage to change once again. Even when the quick-change was less than quick, the band retained their reverence, and it was worth the wait when she returned to the stage for a rousing rendition of I Wanna Know What Love Is. It was an emotional minefield, almost like watching her sing it to the person it was written for, but still her facial expressions paled in comparison to her male back-up singer who constantly looked as though he was having the best night of his life.

Amidst all of her other classics, Chains was an anticipated highlight for obvious reasons, but the dramatic impact of deep male backing vocal beneath Arena’s falsetto could not be overlooked. It wasn’t the last number, but it was amongst the most memorable – the song, and the show as a whole, was years of experience and emotion compressed, but Arena made it seem effortless, and the crowd couldn’t get enough.

Written by Jess Martyn