Tina Arena @ Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Saturday 15 May, 2021
All images by photographer James D. Morgan

Even though Sidney Myer Music Bowl’s socially-distanced pods served their purpose in terms of bringing live music back to Melbourne ASAP, it’s exciting to witness the return to individual seating, which also covers this venue’s lawn area tonight, as well as increased capacities – we’re back, baby!

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra strikes up and the crowd cheers in anticipation as we soon recognise Tina Arena’s Symphony Of Life. “Stars are shining in your eyes…” – there she is! Wearing a black hooded cloak, Arena appears elevated on an upstage rostra. Halfway through this epic number, Tina sheds her cloak to reveal a floor-length cape of beaded fringing, which reflects stage lighting to the point where shea would surely be visible from the (Sorrento) moon! Heaven Help My Heart delivers an early singalong moment, but we’re careful not to overpower Tina’s incomparable pipes.

“I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude and I’m just very, very fortunate to be doing this for not only myself, but also for the greater community, who deserve to be doing what it is that they love,” Tina enthuses before introducing a song she loved as a young girl, which continues to move her to this day: Barry Manilow’s Could It Be Magic. We’re probably more familiar with Take That’s version, but this soaring, piano-driven, MSO-enhanced arrangement is truly unforgettable.

For her Enchanté tour, Tina digs out some songs she’s never previously performed live (including Something’s Gotta Change) and we’re treated to numerous costume changes: a full skirt draped from endless metres of black satin fabric, red velvet suit – all extremely glamorous.

Tina notices her niece in the audience, pointing out that she’s not wearing a jacket and is “winging it” since Melbourne’s weather is typically unpredictable.

The vocal virtuosity of Tina’s backing vocalist, Nilusha Dassenaike – dressed for winter in fur cossack hat – is next-level; during Tangled, she somehow manages to sound like multiple voices singing simultaneously!

After explaining that she spoke very little English until she started school, Tina performs a beautiful Italian song, Caruso (a Lucio Dalla cover), in her native tongue. To represent her musical theatre repertoire, she includes an emotion-drenched rendition of As If We Never Said Goodbye from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Sunset Boulevard, during which audience members can’t resist whistling and cheering – mid-song – to acknowledge specific lung-busting, extended notes.

Female singer on stage in voluminous black gown

Another of Tina’s on-stage ensembles

The thrill of not knowing which sonic delights Tina’s Enchanté show will serve up next is exhilarating. When performed by Tina, Kate Bush’s This Woman’s Work (which masterfully segues into Tina’s own Woman) quite possibly tops the original and we soon notice our eyes are leaking. While introducing this song, Tina explains Bush taught her all about “letting go of fear” and how to be brave enough to talk about things that are uncomfortable to discuss.

Another cool medley sees Talking Heads’ Burning Down The House following Tina’s own Burn – mad props to Musical Director Dorian West! Sorrento Moon (I Remember) is given a jazzy treatment featuring guest violinist Eric Avery and Tina’s latest single Church – as vast and dynamic as a James Bond themesong – marks a new musical chapter for this Australian icon.

The moment we’ve all been waiting for, Chains, is the set closer (obviously) and wins audience-singalong moment of the night – uncontested. We all enthusiastically belt out, “I never thought this could happen to me/ I never thought this is where I’d be… BAAAAAABY, look at me/I said baby, baby, LOOK at me!” We see you, Tina!

This Enchanté tour wonderfully showcases the breadth of Tina’s artistry, which transcends genre and also embraces the magical worlds of musical theatre and opera. Boasting four-plus decades as an entertainer, Tina truly belongs on stage. All musicians onstage are undeniably virtuosic, but the finest sounds of all this evening come courtesy of Tina’s god-given instrument.