It has been 10 long years since Tina Arena last played a show in the UK and she didn’t return empty handed. The Aussie pop diva delivered a lively and compelling 90-minute set of her best-loved hits from the last two decades and a few newly-christened tunes from her latest album, Reset.
There were visitations from every chapter of Tina’s career, much to her fans’ delight: she has canvassed key singles like the 1990 uptempo ‘I Need Your Body’ to the landmark hit ‘Chains’, and right through to the present-millennium gems like ‘Soulmate #9′, ‘Never (Past Tense)’ and ‘You Set Fire to My Life’.
Vocally, Tina Arena is on-point as ever. It’s still baffling that such a big voice can come from such a petite woman. The chanteuse, who was voted Australia’s greatest female singer of all time, didn’t have any trouble at all in scaling the big notes she had carved her career with. ‘Chains’ is still the performance that best encapsulates the breadth of Arena’s vocal abilities in one song. She has got it so well calibrated, it just builds like a pressure cooker: she starts soft and slow in the verses and gradually crescendoes towards the final chorus, where she’s practically belting the roof off.
Right at the other end of the spectrum, and equally as impressive, is ‘Only Lonely’. The stripped-back performance hears Arena sing in a softer tone, accompanied by a piano. It is in this quiet moment that you realise Arena had amazingly just gone from working the crowd in a sparkly jumpsuit to making it feel like she was singing to you alone in this big old church.
Tina, although most recognised for her ballads, is no mere stand-and-deliver act. She moves with the fluidly of a seasoned entertainer between intimate acoustic numbers to energetic performances where she is strutting, twirling and closing each number with a pose. The theatricality comes to life on ‘Don’t Look Back’, a swinging number from her new album, where she belts: “I refuse to live an ordinary life!”. Indeed, ordinary, is far from anything you would describe a Tina Arena performance. What you’re essentially guaranteed is a wonderfully balanced helping of grace and razzle dazzle.
The audience, as delighted and grateful as they were for this long-awaited gig, kept the decorum for the first three quarters of the show. This is a church after all. But things started to shake lose in the last five songs, especially when ‘Symphony of Life’ blasted through the pews. The subtle dance pop single, which has been a firm fan favourite for over 10 years, completely changed the vibe and suddenly everybody was on their feet, clapping along.