Review: Tina Arena and WASO
Tina Arena with the WA Symphony Orchestra. Picture: Ben Crabtree/The West Australian.

Tina Arena and the WA Symphony Orchestra

Riverside Theatre

This Friday night concert, the first in Australian pop songstress and French chanteuse Tina Arena's 2012 Australian tour, offered a near-capacity Riverside Theatre audience a feast of stylishly performed pop, musical, R & B and film classics in lush orchestral arrangements by conductor/arranger Nicolas Buc.

And a feast of classically-inspired Australian couture as Arena trotted out a dazzling succession of dresses and gowns in black satin, sequins, gold lame and grey silk chiffon by Australian designers Amaline Vitale, Steven Khalil, Janet Hine, Sharon Brown and Gwendolynne Burkin.

But the music's the thing, and for nearly two hours Arena, supported by her own band and the WA Symphony Orchestra, mesmerized adoring fans ("We love you Tina," shouted one punter, unable to contain his excitement) with her ability bring out the emotional core of a song with understated elegance.

As the often harder-edged sounds of musical director and keyboardist Paul Gray, backing vocalist Natasha Stuart, guitarist John Bettison, bassist Nick Sinclair and drummer Gordon Rytmeister melded seamlessly with WASO's brilliantly realised orchestral textures, Arena's expressive rubato flirted with Buc's rock-steady pulse to create an erotically-charged atmosphere that was enhanced by Arena's fluid physical gestures.

Arena's voice is redolent of both youthful pop and mature cabaret, which is probably the ideal place to be for such a broad repertoire – there’s less chance of falling into parody.

And here Arena never did, neither in the soulful Living A Lifetime Together which followed Buc's orchestral homage to Arena, the "Arenature" as he's dubbed it, the Lulu and Dusty Springfield classics Oh Me Oh My and Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself and the wonderful Clouds, Cry Me A River and The Man With The Child In His Eyes.

Nor in musical numbers such as Don't Cry For Me Argentina, My Husband Makes Movies and Maybe This Time.

Nor in film numbers such as I Want To Spend My Lifetime Loving You (The Mask of Zorro), which Arena performed together with guest artist Anthony Callea – as she also did the latters' hit, The Prayer – and Golden Eye.

And certainly not in Arena favourites such as Wasn’t It Good, Sorrento Moon, Burn and the more recent self-penned Symphony Of Life.

The sole French language song for the night was the powerful Je m'appelle Baghdad, written by a French song-writing team during the second war in Iraq and championed by Arena in France, where it subsequently became a big hit.

As a second and final encore, I half expected Callea to rejoin Arena for that Bocelli favourite Con te partiro (Time To Say Goodbye). Instead, we had Arena pulling out all the stops for a wonderful take on Blondie's Call Me. The standing ovation that followed was well-deserved.

The West Australian

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