Music Review: Olivia Newton-John


Olivia Newton-John

Burswood Theatre

Olivia Newton-John kicked off her tour at the Burswood Theatre on Friday night with the first of two Perth shows.

Playing alongside the West Australian Symphony Orchestra for the first time, the four time Grammy Award winner led the enthusiastic crowd through a journey of her extensive 40-year career.

Beginning with the unexpected Pearls on a Chain from her album, Grace and Gratitude, the consummate entertainer quickly delivered back to back hits Have You Never Been Mellow, A Little More Love and Sam before moving into an upbeat medley of songs from cult hit movie Xanadu.

An acoustic mini-set of the country songs that first broke her in the early 1970s followed and was the evening's highlight, with songs such as If Not For You, If You Love Me (Let Me Know), Let Me Be There, Please Mr. Please and Banks of the Ohio getting the diverse audience's feet stomping and hands clapping.

One of the 1980s biggest pop hits, Physical, came next and some of the English-born Melbourne-raised singer's younger fans couldn't contain their excitement, jumping to their feet and reaching out to their idol while she strutted across the stage looking half her age, while sounding pitch perfect.

A tender, stripped back reading of Judy Collins's version of Stephen Sondheim's Send in the Clowns was an especially poignant moment in the show, while a medley of disco remixes from her current film, A Few Best Men, seemed misguided and unnecessary.

Cancer advocacy is still at the forefront of Newton-John’s mind, with the 63-year-old, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, talking to the audience about overcoming the illness and pride in her 1994 Gaia album, which chronicled her illness.

With gusto and a spring in her step, she performed the upbeat Not Gonna Give In To It from that album, which showed through the power of song how defiant she was against beating cancer.

Of course no Newton-John concert would be complete without a section of songs from Grease, the biggest movie musical of all time that has made her an everlasting superstar.

Beginning with You’re The One That I Want, it was clear many of the crowd had paid the ticket price just to hear these iconic songs sung live by the lady herself.

Next was Hopelessly Devoted to You, and even though she must have sung it more times than she would like to remember, she gave her all as she channelled her inner "Sandy" once more.

After finishing the main set with a rousing crowd-interactive version of Summer Nights and We Go Together, Newton-John promptly returned to the stage for her encore – the Jeff Barry & Peter Allen-penned I Honestly Love You, which was her first US number one in 1974.

With the sweeping wall of sound surrounding her, courtesy of WASO, Newton-John showed why it is her favourite song with a delicate, heartfelt performance that saw the crowd on their feet with applause as she waved goodbye to her loyal followers once more.