Reviewed by Helen McWilliams
Take a legend with a history of 40 years in the music industry, and many well known movies under her belt – put her in one of Birmingham’s most renowned arenas (the NIA) for just over two hours and what have you got? The most amazing evening with world class entertainer, Olivia Newton-John.
Walking out to rapturous applause, a marvellous welcome from the audience who were of a mixed age range, Olivia was ably supported by three backing singers of outstanding musical ability who performed duets with her at various times. The band was also well balanced to accompany the string of popular hits that she sang as part of the ‘musical journey’.
What a journey it was with a selection of songs from ‘Xanadu’ (the title track had the audience on their feet), ‘Eurovision Song Contest’ (including a tribute to Abba with ‘Waterloo) and a few hits from her country and western days such as ‘Country Roads’ and ‘The Banks of the Ohio’ also adding a rendition of ‘Jolene’ to the mix. Olivia has a quality in her voice that suits the Country and Western style and it is easy to see why she started out singing that particular genre. Also delighting the audience was ‘Let’s Get Physical’ which had everyone out of their seats and in the aisles partying!
Interaction with the audience is always important in my opinion and there were plenty of opportunities for this, she is a very witty lady and also appeared extremely humbled by the attention of her loyal fan base. Olivia has been on an incredible journey, not only throughout her successful career but also in private and she has written some inspirational music reflecting these times. ‘Don’t Cut Me Down’ was a particularly emotive song which was accompanied by some beautifully tranquil lighting effects. ‘Not Gonna Give In To It’ is a number that anybody who is going through a tough time should listen to, my husband turned to me and said “how wonderful to have written a song like this at such a difficult time in her life”.
No Olivia Newton-John concert is complete without reference to ‘Grease’ and we were treated to ‘Hopelessly Devoted’, ‘You’re the one that I want’ and we all participated enthusiastically in ‘Summer Nights’. I don’t think that her voice has altered since those days and indeed ‘Hopelessly Devoted’ sounded identical to her performance in the film.
There was no support act and no interval, it was some feat to sing solidly for such a length of time, but excellent vocals were sustained and Olivia’s vocal range is extremely impressive. I only hope that she doesn’t leave it too long to return to the UK, her tour has come to an end due to the cancellation of the Glasgow leg of the tour (unforeseen circumstances) however you can access information at http://www.olivianewton-john.com.
First published 19.03.13