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Music Reviews: Olivia Newton-John – Olivia’s Live Hits and Live At The Sydney Opera House

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Olivia Newton-John is approaching sixty and has traveled a lot of miles during the course of her 38 year career. She has gone from Grammy winning country artist to a pop diva in the 1980s and starred in the movie Grease which has become one of the most beloved films of all time.

Time does catch up with everyone in some form or other. Olivia Newton-John has had relationship issues and personal illness in recent years so it is good to see her back in the limelight with two new releases.

The DVD, Live At The Sydney Opra House, is a 27 song set that is a feast for the ears and eyes. Olivia Newton John is not young anymore but is still a visual presence. I could have done without the chit chat clips outside the concert hall but once the concert begins Olivia Newton-John is in fine form both metaphorically and physically.

Live At The Sydney Opera House finds a mature Olivia Newton-John who seems relaxed on stage. She has retained her clarity of voice and seems to have extended her upper range. She does not reach for the high range notes that she was prone to do early in her career.

Olivia Newton-John is wise enough to mix her greatest hits with some lesser known songs over the course of this 27 song concert.

“Magic” is a difficult song to sing and when Olivia Newton-John nails it as the second song in the concert you quickly realize that you are in for a memorable evening. It was nice to see and hear her early hits, “If Not For You” and “Let Me Be There.” She gives a straightforward interpretation of these old hits that are often overlooked. She even manages a little rock & roll with “Heart Attack,” “Make A Move On Me” and “Twist Of Fate.” “Three songs from Grease, “You’re The One That I Want,” “Hopelessly Devoted To You” and “Summer Nights” seem a little frozen in time but you can’t help but smile and they do get one of the loudest audience re-actions of the night. 

Such lesser known songs as “Jolene,” “Suddenly,” “Cry Me A River” and “The Promise” provide a nice counterpoint to the onslaught of her well known hits. It is a rare treat to see these songs performed live.

Live At The Sydney Opra House is a must for even casual fans of Olivia Newton-John and is a real treat for those who have followed her career.

I have a couple of issues with the CD, Olivia's Live Hits. First the CD is just too short. There are only ten songs included on this disc. Given the wealth of live material produced by Olivia Newton John during the course of her career this CD should have included more tracks. Secondly, there are gaps between the songs. The audience claps and then silence until the next song begins. This is fine for a studio album but these silence’s interfere with the flow on a live recording.

The vocals are excellent. A great deal of thought was put into the song choices here. Olivia Newton-John never exceeds her capabilities. Her clear voice is out front and is not overwhelmed by the orchestration.

This is basically an album of hits. Olivia Newton-Johns vocals on “I Honestly Love You” are clearer than I remember in the studio original. She handles the twists and turns of “Magic” with aplomb. “Xanadu” remains a hit with her audience. “Hopelessly Devoted To You” proves that Sandy from Grease can still sing.

Olivia's Live Hits is an excellent live update from one of pop’s returning queens. It is a pleasurable listening experience but I am left wishing for more. 

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About David Bowling

  • zingzing

    *shudder*

  • john

    An excellent review of our fave aussie legend.I agree the behind the scenes footage were annoying in that they ”interrupted” the concert and would’ve been better included at the end or as a bonus extra.I also agree with the comments on the cd version.Having attended 2 of the 4 concerts at the opera house the dvd is a great memory to have to watch over and over again.The cd however I think will only get played occasionally.
    Olivia’s always been an amazing talent and Live At The Opera House dvd prooves this beyond question!

  • zingzing

    olivia newton-john is australian?!

    for fuck’s sake… australia… what is wrong?…