‘No longer in chains’: Tina Arena takes control of destiny
Tina Arena is one show down on the first national indoor tour of Australia (and quite possibly the world) since the start of the pandemic.
She'll spend all of May touring around the country with her band, with all shows indoors bar her sold out hometown show at Melbourne's Sidney Myer Music Bowl.
Arena's Enchanté tour began with a sold out gig in Brisbane on Sunday - the singer has been adamant she wouldn't cancel her tour or work under the fear it may be cancelled due to border closures, pointing out the different treatment afforded to arts and sports.
Arena told Stellar earlier this year "You just can't slam a border shut because someone's sneezed."
This week Arena said the tour is still aiming to run at 100-per-cent capacity - navigating each state's current rules and regulations for indoor music events.
"I've always been a bit of a rebel, but a rebel with a cause and that's quite a distinction. I'm happy to call it as I see it and set a positive precedent where I can. We've respected the framework put in place by the various state health departments and hope that our tour can pave the way for other artists across the globe to get back out there safely and bring the arts back to the people. There's no time like the present."
Arena said this tour is the first time she has had complete creative control from start to finish, taking a hands-on role and spending this year in intense rehearsals.
"I've been working over four decades to get to this place. I was readier than I've ever been. Stepping onto that stage (in Brisbane) I felt immediately enlightened and free. I felt like I belonged like never before, because this tour is a true manifestation of my inner life. This is me and I am home. I was totally astounded by the reaction and in good need of a rosé after we wrapped."
The tour sees Arena sing one song in Italian, in public, for the first time since her childhood.
"Enchanté is a celebration of the art and music I hold dear. Italian is very much part of that. After all, Italian is my first language. I didn't learn English until I started school. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to honour my heritage and sing in my mother tongue. It's a very special moment in the show."
Arena also performs two new songs, including latest single Church - she dropped the song and a new video last week, taking fans by surprise.
"I'm absolutely delighted by the reception. It just reinforces to me that I'm on the right path. I am designing my own life and career for the first time in forever and I'm filled with gratitude for the opportunity to do so. I'm just getting started. Stay tuned kids."
REVIEW: TINA'S NEW CHAPTER
It is quite fitting Tina Arena ends her latest tour by stating "I'm no longer in these chains."
That's the telling revision added to her 1994 signature hit for many years, just in case you weren't aware the song, and her life, had a happy ending.
But her updated sign-off has even more meaning in 2021. Arena's taken control of her destiny like never before - an independent artist for the first time in a career that stretches back to releasing her first album at barely 10 years of age.
She's navigating a global and industry reset that includes being one of the first indoor national tours since COVID kneecapped out her beloved arts community.
While the easy option - especially now - would be another greatest hits tour, Tina Arena has never taken the easy option. Not that there's not hits all throughout her Enchanté setlist - they're just rubbing shoulders with deep cuts that will reward fans casual and diehard.
Arena has heavily raided her liberation album Just Me (which turns 20 this year) for songs no one saw coming - Tangled and Something's Gotta Give - as well as Woman, which she's performed on many previous tours, but its prescient lyrics have never been more fitting.
At her Melbourne rehearsal Arena stated "the music industry is a jungle and I wasn't prepared to be on safari all the time."
Just Me's biggest hit, Symphony Of Life, opens proceedings in a suitably dramatic manner, Wasn't It Good is injected with a hint of jazzy cabaret, a mellow Sorrento Moon features Eric Avery (the tour's amazing opening act) handling the second verse in his ancestors' tongue.
Arena sings the Italian classic Caruso in Italian - at that rehearsal she noted her parents had waited 40 years to hear her sing in Italian in public - and it's truly breathtaking.
We're familiar with Arena singing in French, but she rips your heart out with Caruso. And then continues by singing into her familiar Andrew Lloyd Webber mode for Sunset Boulevard's As If We Never Said Goodbye - a bite-size reminder of her incredible theatre work shoehorned into her regular night job.
Burn gets mashed up with Talking Heads' Burning Down the House, she delves into her biggest album for fan favourite Greatest Gift and fast forwards to You Set Fire To My Life, a song that should have topped charts but she dared to release a euphoric pop song after turning 40.
Another Arena constant is Kate Bush - she's tackled teenage Kate on The Man With the Child In His Eyes previously; on this tour she tackles grown Kate on the classic This Woman's Work. There's a reason most vocalists don't touch this song, but most vocalists aren't Tina Arena.
The night's other emotional cover is one she's released before, REM's Everybody Hurts. It's taken on special meaning now, delivered as communal healing.
The attention to detail here is stunning, from her band adding everything from trumpet to pedal steel to her music, to outfits that match the musical mood and even hand-picked artwork behind her showcasing local artists.
Arguably the reason we're seeing Arena back on the road is she's fallen back in love with making music again - on her own terms. There's two new songs in this tour, recorded in Sweden last year.
Dancing On Thin Ice is very dramatic but also very pop (those Swedes know what they're doing) while new single Church is even more epic live - the music could come from a Bond theme, but this is the story of her life. And it feels like we're at the start of an exciting new chapter.
Tina Arena - ICC Sydney Wednesday, Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre Saturday, Adelaide Entertainment Centre May 11, Sidney Myer Music Bowl Melbourne May 15, Perth RAC Arena May 22, Wollongong Entertainment Centre May 26, Canberra Llewellyn Hall May 28, 29, 30.
Originally published as 'No longer in these chains': Tina Arena takes control