Live Review : Tina Arena at Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo – 13 September 2017

Written by Natasha Wyborn

Quiet please there’s a lady on stage and boy what a lady she is. In todays music industry marked with tantrums and constant drama Tina Arena is a stand out, a survivor. In fact Tina has been a star since she first hit Australian television as part of the Young Talent Team all those years ago. Unlike a lot of artists Arena’s history is promoted proudly throughout the show. There is reference to it and photographs on the multiple screens provide the audience to transform back to a time when life was so much simpler.

Arriving on stage looking elegant in an ivory pant-suit and backed by a seven piece band Tina hit a perfect opening note and frankly did not miss one the entire show. Opening with the Jimmy Webb classic “MacArthur Park” followed by a slow and almost haunting version of “Burn” before introducing the audience to a hat trick of hits with “Sorrento Moon”. Arena’s stripped down versions of all three opening songs confirmed she remains at the top of her game. Looking sheepishly at the audience Arena’s opening comments were “Well hello, your all dressed up with somewhere to go”. A cover of the Foreigner smash “I Want To Know What Love Is” heralded the way for a showcase of hits including “Heaven Help My Heart”, “Now I Can Dance”, “Wasn’t It Good” and “If I Didn’t Love You”. The show consisted of two sets and following a well deserved break the band returned with Arena making a timely entrance from the back of stage.

Throughout both sets there were personal reflections “In 1994 when “Chains” came out I didn’t take the time to smell the roses, but I am smelling them now” she told the audience. Referring to some members of her industry as “Creatures” I guess you could argue over forty years Arena has seen it all. Describing her first 20 years in the industry as a “Treadmill that just had to keep going” there is respect but you get the impression a large percentage is reserved for her fans.

During the show there were several dress changes all highlighting this talented ladies beauty and class. Arena has never been silenced especially when her passion has been ignited. Sure she is pro Australian especially in relation to artists air play but she is also displays incredible humility especially in regards to her music longevity. Arena’s thank you to the audience for forty years of support was genuine, at the end of the day there is no diva here she is simply one of us.

Walking out with a feeling of complete respect, I thought Tina Arena has juggled many hats during her career but they have all been done so perfectly with elegance and grace. A singer songwriter, musician, musical theatre actress, and record producer deserving of every accolade given plus a whole lot more.

As a sideline I have to say I have been lucky in life to attend and photograph at some fantastic venues none are better than the Ulumbarra Theatre in Bendigo. The idea of using a run down vacant goal as part of a modern building structure is nothing short of architectural brilliance. Walking into the theatre the visitor is confronted with decor of both days gone by working in perfectly synergy with modern essentials. Prison cells serve as a timely reminder of violent inmate days gone by, guard towers remain at the entrance. Upon entry into the main auditorium every seat offers a prime view. The acoustics are perfect, acknowledged a couple of times by Arena during the show and seconded by her sound engineer. One final unique feature is a raised walkway to the side of the stage.

Tina Arena at Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo – 13 September 2017

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