Olivia Newton-John and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (2006/2008)
With Performers: Andy Timmons, guitar and vocals/ Dan Wojciechowski, drums/ Lee Hendricks, bass/ Catherine Marx, keyboards/ Warren Ham, horns and vocals/ Steve Real, background vocals/ Carmella Ramsey, background vocals
Produced by Mark Kalbfeld and Jim Shea
Studio: EMI 509995 11688 96
Video: 4:3 fullscreen color
Audio: DD 5.1; PCM Stereo
No Regional Coding
Length: 94 minutes
When I first put this on I was fearful of one of those old-time-pop-singers-on-public-TV kind of shows. And it really is sort of like that if the truth be told. But this performance takes place in the Royal Opera House in Sydney Australia, the first time Newton-John has played there since her performance before the Queen in 1980, and the setting is fairly grand, as you can imagine.
All of her hits are here, including five or six songs that are relatively new. I must admit that this was an eye-opener for me. Having been a fan years ago, knowing of her struggle with breast cancer in the early 90’s (which she evidently won) and her subsequent comeback (yes, she is still recording albums), I do admire her for her courage. But what matters in any concert is can she still sing? Resoundingly, yes. In fact, I heard her do things in this concert that I have never heard before.
The voice is the trademark Olivia Newton-John. But she demonstrates on this concert a remarkably high and versatile range, plus the ability to sing tight harmony with her cohorts and to present her music in many different vocal settings (she plays piano also). One of the surprises is the smash hit Physical, done in the eighties when the exercise craze was at its zenith (remember the video?); here we get a close harmony sort of swing version that is more low-key and far more attractive to these ears than the original. There are the Grease numbers of course, lots of reminiscences, and a documentary of sorts watching her frolic in places around Sydney harbor between numbers. But it is all good fun, she is still adored over there (and here by many), and I was simply stunned by the quality of her voice—at 59.
The face unfortunately is not hers. Having undergone a facelift a few years back, well – you can only imagine. I mean, she looks younger, but these things never make you look younger like you did before, and that is the case here. It actually pained me a bit to see it, but I adjusted and rejoiced in the fact that she still has a certain vocal magic, and actually a lot more powerful voice than many will remember. It is a pleasant walk down memory lane, and thoroughly enjoyable.
— Steven Ritter