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Live Review: Olivia Newton-John & John Farnham – 19th April 2015 – Qantas Credit Union Arena, Sydney, Australia

6 min read

When you think of Australian music icons there are a couple of superstars that spring to most people’s minds almost instantly – Olivia Newton-John and John Farnham.

Olivia began her career in the 70’s with enormous selling singles including Physical and the cinematic treasure Xanadu, both of which have paved the success of Olivia’s lengthy career as a vocal legend and film icon however her role as naïve Sandy in the phenomenon that is Grease where she starred alongside John Travolta in 1978 made the musician and actress a household name the world over.

John on the other hand took a slightly different path and his fame has really been contained within Australia. Breaking out in the 60’s as a teen star he was quick to unleash some of the 80’s biggest vocal numbers such as Age of Reason, Pressure Down, Two Strong Hearts and of course his signature hit and one of Australia’s most recognizable anthems, You’re The Voice from his 1986 Whispering Jack record, the biggest selling record in Australian history. For several decades the once mullet-donning vocalist has lived a slightly less Hollywood inspired lifestyle than his friend Newton-John but is considered one of Australia’s most successful recording artists and easily one of, if not the, most talented vocalists to come out of the Australian music industry.

With a friendship that has also spanned several decades, it was only a matter of time before the two iconic singers would work together again in music and while they have paired up at various moments throughout each acts careers to perform live together, fans have been treated to a joint tour from Newton-John and Farnham over these past couple of weeks with a string of shows in various cities around Australia and the hordes of fans flocked to Sydney’s Qantas Credit Union Arena for the closing night of the joint Two Strong Hearts tour last night.

Over almost 3 hours Farnham and Newton-John delivered a 30 song set of songs from each performer’s respective, extensive catalogues to a sold out Credit Union Arena crowd. There were the obvious numbers that one would expect to hear at a show by either artist – Newton-John mastered career highlights like the energetic Physical alongside a comedic Farnham who engaged a laughing crowd as he flexed and posed during the number, and Xanadu while Farnham’s vocal power guided him through hits like the synth-driven Pressure Down and Freedom as well as some of the singers most recognizable power ballads including Age of Reason where he shared the spotlight with their 6-member backing vocal team and an absolute stellar opening of Two Strong Hearts alongside his co-performer. There was certainly a heavy injection of commercial hits offered to the lengthy set list right from the very beginning of the night.

While I am less familiar with Newton-John’s work than I am of Mr. Farnham’s – perhaps that is down to my age and the fact that I was surrounded by Farnham’s songs as a youngster in New Zealand when he was at his peak – the songbird delivered a career encompassing string of songs that earned her several admirable moments during the night to enjoy on her own. She was in her element when unveiling some of her more gentle numbers like early career hit Magic and the piano-led I Honestly Love You but it was a medley of hits from her Grease success – Hopelessly Devoted To You, You’re The One That I Want and Summer Nights, the latter of which were shared with Farnham who played Danny quite remarkably for the show’s most nostalgic and memorable segment and one that got the crowd dancing in the aisles and singing at the top of their lungs to the iconic movie masterpieces.

As Newton-John offered fans some of the nights more sedate numbers and while the songbird garnished the show with some international star power, it really was Farnham who stole the night with his flawless and surprisingly youthful vocals. This was the first time I had seen John Farnham live and I was absolutely blown away by the sheer power of the musician’s voice which was both unweathered and did not tire despite delivering some of the nights most strenuous and demanding songs. The ladies in the crowd seemed to be particularly frisky every time it was the musicians time in the spotlight and at every available opportunity the female audience members rushed to the stage to shake hands with the Australian icon, pass him a rose or a stuffed toy or to simply get a little closer to their pin-up and he was certainly more than happy to oblige as he shuffled at a 45 degree angle back and forth across the stage to attend to every member of the crowd.

Capping off the first half of the set the pair delivered a spot on rendition of Dare To Dream which the duo had performed together at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The song came with an opening story delivered by Farnham of an incident during their Olympics performance that led the singer to drop Newton-John like, as he put it, “a sack of potatoes”. They then launched into the number and took to the center of the floor seating area of the venue to belt out the tender closing chorus’ of the track; embracing each other and surrounded by fans who were star struck by the intimate and up-close encounter with the pop icons.

The second half of the concert was dominated by Farnham who tore through a meaty handful of career defining hits including Pressure Down and The Voice with the latter including a dozen bagpipe players ascending to the stage and which had dozens of admirers take to the front of the arena to cheer the singer on as he delivered a pitch-perfect version of the iconic track with Newton-John providing a sweet vocal to the number and dancing alongside the national icon.

Throughout the show Farnham seemed in absolute awe with and actually rather smitten by the songstress that he was sharing the stage with, suggesting at one point that they go out on a date and showing a comical side to the star that frequented the performance numerous times throughout the night. His admiration for Newton-John was also evident in the numerous kisses the musician laid on her hand during the set and the attentive glances that he would give the singer during some of the more tender moments of the concert.

While the set was a little lengthy for my liking and Newton-John’s hits a little too dated and mellow for me to remain completely engaged throughout the near 3 hour set, Farnham was the obvious star of last night’s show and proved that there is more than a few more successful years under his belt. The pair worked well together on stage and they evidently loved each other’s company as they laughed and joked together and told various stories of their time as friends. It was a nostalgic trip through the careers of two Australian icons and a night that had a sold out crowd begging for more at the end of an already extensive set list of classics from the pair.

First Set:
Two Strong Hearts
Let Me Be There
Have You Ever Been Mellow
I Honestly Love You
Tenterfield Saddler
No One Comes Close
Love to Shine
Age of Reason
Dare To Dream

Second Set:
Somewhere Over The Rainbow
Burn for You
Hit The Road Jack/Fever
Cry Me A River
A Little More Love
Hopelessly Devoted To You
The One That I Want
Summer Nights
Man Of The Hour
Pressure Down
Playing To Win
Hearts On Fire
If Not For You
Every time You Cry
The Voice

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