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Live Review: Tina Arena – 11th September 2014 – The Star Event Centre, Sydney, Australia

6 min read

For an artist like Tina Arena, finding the songs to take out on the road with you shouldn’t be a very challenging element of putting a new tour together. The downside, for someone like this Australian music veteran, is deciding what career gems will be omitted from any given tours set-list. It must have been a particularly challenging job ahead of her current Reset Australian Tour given the solid collection that she is touring.

Tina Arena is one of Australia’s most talented and cherished singer-songwriters. Erupting onto the international stage way back in 1994 with her sophomore LP and international debut Don’t Ask, she was quick to solidify her place as a powerhouse performer, a sublime vocalist and one of Australias greatest musical exports. Don’t Ask produced several hit singles including the anthemic Heaven Help My Heart, Sorrento Moon and of course, the musician’s signature hit, Chains. It was and is an album of such high calibre, rarely heard from any artist before and since in the world of pop music and it led the star to continue recording for what has so far been a further two decades, dominating the charts whenever she decides to unveil a new record.

Her most recent album, last year’s Reset, brought to us a modern day pop princess who has revisited the style of music that made her a household name but with a modern pop twist. The collection was fronted by the lead single, You Set Fire To My Life, a track that we placed in the second spot of our Best Songs of 2013 list.

With a dozen or so shows already performed as part of the Reset tour, we went along to catch Arena at the first of two consecutive Sydney shows at The Star Event Centre last night and were absolutely blown away. With stops at almost every main city around the country and additional Sydney and Melbourne performances being slotted in to meet the overwhelming response to the latest run of shows, this home-grown musical sweetheart proved that she is well as truly back!

The set felt more like a greatest hits show than one being performed to promote a new LP. While many of the new songs were fresh material, they held a nostalgic, nineties-pop quality to them then transported us back to the singers Don’t Ask era with tracks from that record, such as Sorrento Moon and Heaven Help My Heart, sitting alongside the singers new songs with confidence.

Dressed in a shimmering black jumpsuit and perched on a raised stage with her backing band, Arena performed the opening track, Let Me In behind see through windows that we strategically placed over a large black wall of material but it wasn’t long before the curtain dropped for the singer to take to the very front of the stage for gorgeous performances of Reset number Out of the Blue and the funkified, dance-pop hit Soul Mate #9 from the singers 2001 record, Just Me. The latter performance also gave way to a colourful stage facelift with brightly-lit screens showing dancing silhouettes.

While the set list was predominantly filled with laid-back numbers which included a stunning, piano-led offering of Only Lonely with the singer taking a seat for the number as her pianist played the syrupy backdrop of the track as well as the touching Destination Unknown which came from a brief story of the singer appearing on the show Who Do You Think You Are and paying tribute to her grandmother, uplifting nods like Dare You To Be Happy, Never (Past Tense) and the latecomer Symphony of Life provided moments for the audience to stand and dance along with the musician.

The obvious highlights of the new tour were of course always going to be the big singles that have shaped Arena’s success over the years and there were plenty of them during the course of the 90 minute show.  Sorrento Moon gave the show a beautiful, almost Italian feel as we were transported back in time with the help of Arena’s stories of travelling the world. Burn’s mid-tempo and soaring chorus threw us into the musicians In Deep studio collection as she shared the vocal spotlight alongside her backing singer.

Career highlight Heaven Help My Heart offered a venue wide standing ovation as she tore through the numbers impressive and mighty vocal arrangement with ease and dressed in a flowing silver gown as she paced the stage barefoot.

The encore of the show saw Tina emerge from the side of the stage dressed in a flattering and figure hugging red strapless dress to perform the iconic hit, Chains. This one was always going to win the crowd over and was the obvious highlight of the show as she unleashed her passionate and flawless vocals over the timeless power ballad. With a trip down memory lane for a bouncy rendition of the singers very first hit, I Need Your Body, complete with catchy synth hooks and plenty of 80’s dance moves, the night was capped by a spectacular performance of Reset lead single, You Set Fire To My Life which, like the rest of the tracks performed last night, was delivered with precision and a sense of effortlessness that comes only natural to a singer like Tina Arena. The track gained the musician with another standing ovation from the crowd who clutched tour t-shirts and programs as they waved goodnight to one of Australia’s most talented singer-songwriters.

The tour is a very personal venture for Arena who decided to take the financial brunt of the tour all on her own, allowing for a much more intimate setting to be laid and for her to reconnect with fans and that intimate feeling was certainly felt last night at the Star Event Centre with Arena frequently talking to the audience and recounting personal stories from throughout her lengthy career.

The last time I saw Tina perform was in the quaint settings of London’s Shepherds Bush Empire . This was going back a few years now and during this Arena era, the singer was busy promoting her French language recordings. While it pains me to say this, being a big Tina Arena fan, the show was less than I had hoped for as many of the songs I had anticipated hearing were either omitted for lesser known tracks and the key singles performed, such as Chains, were reworked so dramatically that they were almost unrecognizable. This time around however, the tracks sounded like the album versions, with minor alterations given to most to give each a live feel as opposed to sounding directly lifted from the disc.

Tina’s Reset tour has marked a welcome return for one of the finest vocalists in music and her recent Reset LP provides a long overdue collection for fans who, like Arena brought to attention herself last night, is a project that was long overdue. Let’s just hope it isn’t too long before the musician heads back into the studio to record a follow up and for her next tour. Going by last night’s show and turn out of fans, there should be plenty more years for Tina Arena to shine.

Let Me In
Out of the Blue
Soul Mate #9
Dare You to Be Happy
Sorrento Moon (I Remember)
Still Running
Don’t Look Back
Destination Unknown
Only Lonely
Reset All
Don’t Hide
Never (Past Tense) (The Roc Project feat. Tina Arena cover)
Symphony of Life
Heaven Help My Heart

I Need Your Body
You Set Fire to My Life