an older, more reflective Olivia Newton-John who brought
her collection of 80's vintage pop and country tunes to
Sandstone Amphitheatre on Sunday night. [15 Aug]
The singer has taken her knocks, some of them well-deserved, for bland interpretations of some mindless pop melodies. If white bread could sing, the classic put-down goes, it would sound like Olivia Newton-John.
But the emotional centerpiece of Newton-John's two hour performance was a raw and visceral reading of John Lennon's and Paul McCartney's "the long and winding road" that was anything but soulless.
The singer dedicated the powerful number to Linda McCartney, who died of breast cancer. "I feel very lucky to be here, and I enjoy every day." Newton-John, a breast cancer survivor, told the crowd.
The performer hit the high points from her groundbreaking early career, a time in which she pioneered the pop-country crossover phenomenon with such tunes as Please Mr. Please, Let Me Be There, and If you Love me let me know.
|"I caused a little bit
of a stir in Nashville for a while," Newton-John
said with a smile. "But they like me now, so
Her vocal range is still impressive, with some showy falsetto passages emerging in a nice arrangement of Dolly Parton's "Jolene."
Stylistically, the singer-songwriter displayed colors seldom heard in her reign at the top of the pop charts, most notably in the salsa-flavored, "I'm not gonna give into it," written in what Newton-John described as the most difficult period of her cancer treatment.
Much of the show's second half was devoted to music from the theater, ranging from a thoughtfully phrased rendering of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's "Don't Cry for me Argentina" to a crowd-pleasing collection of hits from the record-breaking movie version of Broadway's Grease.
New Age piano man Jim Brickman opened the show with a 40 min set of solo piano selections. Cavernous Sandstone is the wrong venue for Brickman's introspective keyboard work. But the performer gave it his best shot, offering up a drastically condensed version of his solo concert act.
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last updated January 13, 2003