Seattle Times, 9 August 1999
Olivia's back! And she doesn't miss a beat
Entertainment News : Monday, August 09, 1999
by Lisa Jann
Olivia Newton-John, Saturday night, Benaroya Hall, Seattle.
Touring for the first time since 1983, Olivia Newton-John packed Benaroya Hall Saturday night, winning several standing ovations during her two-hour revue.
Sticking with signature songs and old favorites, the Aussie princess of '70s pop and "Grease" icon surprised with a fun song list that spanned the entirety of her career, her ever-pleasant charisma, and her sweet voice, which sounded as fresh as ever.
Blowing open her show with rock-heavy versions of movie tracks "Xanadu" and "Magic," Newton-John set the tone for the sentimental journey of her rare appearance. This comeback was a telling for the performer who found herself in a battle with breast cancer just seven years ago. Now completely recovered, a healthy California lifestyle must also become the 50-year-old singer, who skipped and danced energetically around the stage for the entire show, often stooping mid-song to shake hands and accept flowers from fans who approached.
Backed by an eight-piece band, she wound through country and ballad hits "Let Me Be There," "Sam" and "Have You Never Been Mellow," giving the songs (most of which were written by longtime producer John Farrar) the same innocent, heartfelt allure that made her a superstar 20 years ago.
As an excited trio of 9-year-old girls bopped around a balcony box, Newton-John mugged through tunes from "Grease," donning a motorcycle jacket over hot-pink leather pants.
She infused "Hopelessly Devoted" with the same dreamy swoon that caught her watery reflection in the movie, and she kicked life back into the perky duet, "Summer Nights." She also showcased her crystal-clear soprano on a number of lovely covers, including Dolly Parton's "Jolene" and acoustic tributes of John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" and Paul McCartney's "Long and Winding Road," in honor of his late wife, Linda.
Even when her tunes turned to schmaltz, one couldn't deny her earnestness. Unable to resist the passionate drama of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," she performed Evita's swan song with technical and interpretive aplomb.
For a self-penned song about the destruction of the forests, she took the first-person perspective of a victimized tree. Its chorus of "Don't cut me down/For I am innocent/Don't cut me down/I am your friend" was evocative of a gag number from "South Park," but her longtime commitment to environmental causes wiped any smirk off its delivery.
For her final song, Newton-John didn't hold back, unleashing the aerobic pump of "Physical," with her backup singers breaking into jumping jacks behind her. Belting out the refrain "I wanna get animal," she took the usually genteel Benaroya back to 1982 with the sweaty single, getting the entire audience on its feet and clapping.
This page brought to you by the Olivia Newton-John fan club Only Olivia.
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last updated January 13, 2003