Show Review: Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends 07.11.18

Published on, Nov 2018

Pic by Dana Weeks

Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends

Riverside Drive

Nov 7

“A spirited evening of music and literature.” That’s the tagline on the poster for Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends’ Australian tour, with many immediately drawn to a certain name and his image before taking a step back to figure out exactly what was on offer.

Many film icons of Murray’s calibre and vintage set out on “An Evening With” tours, but when you think about it, a show that features the Ghostbusters star reciting classic poetry and great American literature and singing classic songs, backed by a captivating chamber orchestra, is probably the best representation of Bill Murray on stage you could expect.

The evening began with a comical message from Murray about ensuring mobile phones were switched off and shortly after his arrival on stage it was clear why.

Walking out with renowned Chinese-American violinist Mira Wang and Venezuelan-American pianist Vanessa Perez, Murray stood tall and imposing and began reciting classic American literature to a deadly silent crowd. The audience was hanging off every word, and at its finish, German cellist and Murray’s creative partner, Jan Volver, joined the party, with the band embarking on a classical journey that captured the essence of the powerful words that had just been delivered.

The show continued to play out in a similar fashion, with Murray delivering works from Twain, Hemingway, Whitman and more and the band offering up music from the likes of Ravel, Schubert, Saint-Saëns and Bach in support.

“The worst is over,” Murray joked after the band had settled in. “But if you want to leave now, we’d totally understand.”

It was his largely-than-life personality that kept the show alive, and there was plenty of humour on offer; from renaming Rottnest Island’s Quokkas to “Quokkos” (“They couldn’t have been sweeter… or more delicious.”), to pulling Perez’s local paper turner to centre stage for a dance, Murray was on fire.

His infectious energy was truly on show during classic songs The Piano Has Been Drinking by Tom Waits, in which he ended up sitting on the piano after downing a healthy amount of whisky, and It Ain’t Necessarily So, which had the entire audience singing along.

Murray may not have the greatest singing voice (as evident in My Girl), but that’s what adds to the show’s charm; Murray comes across as a relatable and fun guy who is easy to connect with.

While it was during these collective singalongs that the room was filled with the most energy, it was when Murray was reading works like The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer, playing four different characters, that the night truly found its stride, with many audience members transported to another place.

That’s not to say the band didn’t have their time in the spotlight, with Murray vacating the stage (or more appropriately, hiding behind the piano from time to time), to let the mind-blowingly talented musicians on stage unleash.

Given the show’s unique structure and it’s accompanying parts, it’s hard to know who will get the most out of it, but that’s what makes it so great; it brings together people who wouldn’t normally find themselves in the same room. It’s a bold celebration of art, life and friendship.


INTERVIEW: Bill Murray and Jan Vogler

Published on, Nov 2018

Bill Murray & Jan Vogler Will Pull The Rug Out From Under You With ‘New Worlds’

It’s midday in Vienna and Bill Murray is nursing a headache on his way to the airport to catch a flight to Perth, the first stop on his Australian tour with his musical partner, German cellist Jan Vogler.

It’s Vogler, or as Murray later enthuses, the “punctual” one, who instigates the call. “I’ve never been on time for much of anything,” Murray tells.

“I find it uplifting and educational to learn that there are people that actually show up when they’re supposed to, or when they’re expected; it’s opened up a whole new world for me.”

Joined by Vogler’s wife, renowned Chinese-American violinist Mira Wang and Venezuelan-American pianist Vanessa Perez, the musical force spent the previous night opening an exhibition of art and antiques cured by Murray’s good friend Wes Anderson at the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Thus explains the headache he’s now nursing.

“We had an excellent dance party in my hotel room last night,” Murray says. “We had about fifty people dancing until about three-thirty, four. Considering we started at about 10pm, it was a pretty impressive dance party.”

That’s when Vogler fittingly pulls things back to their New Worlds Australian tour and collaborative LP of the same name. “Now, we are all into Australia, and all about doing our show, and the joy we hope to bring with this show to you guys,” Vogler says.

“There is something for people who love classical music, but it’s also so much beyond that.”

New Worlds blends classical masterpieces from the likes of Ravel, Schubert, Saint-Saëns and Bach with iconic spoken word excerpts from American writers such as Twain, Hemingway and Whitman and classics from the American songbook, including Gershwin, Bernstein and Foster.

It’s an interesting prospect for those who know Murray as the man behind Groundhog Day, Ghostbusters, Stripes and myriad of other titles, and while the aforementioned description of New Worlds might turn some away, Murray is certain their live show will be worth the time invested. “It looks like a stuffy, dry show, and then we pull the rug out from under them, and just hit them over the head with great music and great playing,” he tells.

“It’s absolutely true,” Vogler adds. “I think it’s highbrow, lowbrow, and everything. It’s something that I have never really seen.

“With this show, I feel the energy just building, and building, and building, and at the end, everybody has an incredible amount of energy.”

The energy conveyed throughout the album and translated to the stage might have something to do with the spontaneity of how the pair met back in 2013 at a Berlin airport.

They were both going through airport security to catch a flight to New York – Murray taking a break from filming Monuments Men and Vogler returning home after a long tour. Murray asked Vogler how he planned on fitting his cello in the overhead. From there, they sparked up a conversation on the plane, consequently sitting next to one-another and Vogler watching Stripes, which just happened to be on the in-flight entertainment list. They traded contact details, stayed in touch and invited each other to a few events before their creative partnership was born.

The whole thing reads a little like a love story.

“We’re all laughing now; you got the whole band laughing at that one,” Murray laughs. “Yeah, it is a love story. We love each other, and we really love playing this show. When we turn on the switch and go, we’re just filled with love. It’s a fantastic feeling… When we walk out on the stage, everybody just goes someplace else.”

The pair had no prior knowledge of each other’s work when they met. “Bill and I met, but then for two years we didn’t work at all together,” Vogler explains. “We would just hang out together, and let a friendship build. It was something I didn’t have very much of in my life.”

While Murray can’t decide whether or not no prior knowledge was a benefit to New Worlds, he does say it made the process “a real joy”.

“We come from very different worlds; we come from different continents. But we have so much in common in the centre,” he tells. “There’s like a jelly doughnut centre to each of us,” he adds, continuing on to deliver some trademark Murray commentary.

“Even though we look like barnacles on the outside, we have jelly doughnut centres.

“When you have a jelly doughnut centre, it kind of shakes when things go well. When life goes well, and music plays, the jelly kind of vibrates a little bit. It’s like some sort of an alien being inside, that shakes. We each have it – Vanessa has it, Mira has it, too. We’re just a bunch of doughnuts that are coming to your country and we’re very excited. We’re really excited. It’s a really stuffed pastry, coming your way.”

It’ll be Vogler’s first time in Australia, while Murray has only visited the East Coast in the past.

“If you’re in Perth, will you put an ad in the paper for me?” Murray asks. “I hope that this fellow that I met in Bali thirty years ago is still hanging around. I’m not very good on names, but we rode around on motorcycles in Bali, up in the mountains, I think it might have been Kintamani, and we ended up in Lake Batur, and had a lot of fun over there.

“He had a Lonely Planet book called South East Asia On A Shoestring, and it changed the way I travel; I became a traveller, as opposed to a tourist. So, I hope he’s still there. And I hope he comes and finds us at the show. Tell him not to buy a ticket; I’ve got a couple of tickets for him.”

Vogler adds: “That would be wonderful if you could convey his message. I know you [cover] music, but still, this is about friendship, and music happens through friendship.”

Show Review: Taylor Swift 19.10.18

Published on, Oct 2018

Pic by Ted Dana

Taylor Swift, Charli XCX, Broods

Optus Stadium

Oct 19

Security was thorough as thousands of Taylor Swift fans unloaded from buses and trains around Perth Stadium, with one thing, in particular, standing out on the “Prohibited Items” list – “Ex-boyfriend/Ex-lovers”, with a series of the headline act’s greatest hits pictured beside it.

Each punter entering scored “a gift from Taylor”, a wristband that we were instructed to activate during the main event, adding to the excitement around the corner.

After loosening up with a tightly executed version Hold The Line, New Zealand sibling duo Broods were right at home at Perth’s largest music venue for their biggest gig to date.

Songs like Heartlines and Free, with their slow-building verses and soaring choruses from vocalist Georgia Nott, rendered them perfect for a stadium, as the space in the verses allowed the vocals to bounce around the open-air venue, while their chorus hooks filled every inch of the space with an infectious energy.

The atmosphere was drastically different when Charli XCX‘s name lit up on the big screen, with thick and moody synth adding a sense of urgency to the air and snare hits so piercing they could have been mistaken for gunshot as Boom Clap fought to overpower the screaming crowd. Her Icona Pop collab, I Love It, was up next, transforming the gig into an aerobic workout for many.

Break The Rules proved popular with the younger audience members, something that resulted in primary school kids singing along passionately about “Getting high and getting wrecked“.

Despite not mentioning the song’s Perth connection, Troye Sivan collab 1999 proved a set highlight. It would have been nice to see Sivan on stage with her like their joint performance of the song in New York the week previous, but the Bloom hitmaker appearing over the PA and on the big screen was a nice touch.

Taylor Swift doesn’t shy away from her critics, her intro consisting of a series of news snippets calling her reputation into question before the singer raised her middle finger to the haters with an intro so bold it immediately had everyone on side.

The massive screens centre stage parted to reveal the superstar on the stage by herself, dressed in a sparkling black playsuit and asking punters if they were …Ready For It?.

Backing dancers joined halfway through to add a dark, theatrical flair into the mix, before the air intensified with blood red lighting in anthem I Did Something Bad.

I can feel the flames on my skin,” she sang, before flames and fireworks burst from the stage, while everyone’s gifted wristband pulsated red in time.

“Good evening, Perth,” Swift politely said, immediately thanking everyone in attendance and the support acts before pointing out it was the first time a female artist had headlined the new stadium. It proved a nice transition into new tune Gorgeous.

The single, like many on Reputation, is a slight departure for the singer, with more calculated and simplistic production than some of her previous efforts, but it translated well to the stage.

The production, choreography and outfits were dripping Style, something Swift’s mastered over the years through a number of different creative direction changes.

It was the juxtaposition between classic tune Love Story and more recent electronic pop hit Look What You Made Me Do that really illustrated the eclectic nature of her catalogue.

With a giant inflatable cobra, gold throne, dizzying dance moves and headline act that commanded undivided attention, it was easy to forget she was accompanied by a solid live band, especially given the fact, when they weren’t concealed behind the big screens, they were perched between them, often left in a flurry of lights. But their presence and talent definitely added to the experience, with booming drums laying a platform for hits like King Of My Heart, while electric guitar gave the show a rock’n’roll edge and other acoustic instruments throughout grounded the electronic onslaught.

A candid speech about taking time off after 1989 to find herself gave fans an insight into the inception of her latest album, resulting in a powerful message about love and friendship.

“Is that rain?” Swift asked. “Well, I’m not going anywhere, no matter what,” she added, as our wristbands illuminated purple and Delicate drops of rain fell onto the crowd.

Swift climbed aboard a carriage lit by rope lights and gently floated around the stadium, a sea of screams radiating from below.

“Will you dance in the rain with me?” she asked over the quirky pop intro of Shake It Off, now positioned on a stage in the middle of the stadium where more giant inflatable snakes and a sea of flickering, rainbow coloured wristbands set the scene for a set highlight that included more fireworks and confetti.

It might be the singer’s first all-stadium tour, but she hasn’t forgotten her roots, standing solo on the same platform with just an acoustic guitar for a stripped-back rendition of Dancing With Our Hands Tied.

Keeping things intimate and revisiting a song she hadn’t “played in a minute”, a reimagined I Knew You Were Trouble had the crowd screaming every word and proved she didn’t need all the bells and whistles to have an impact. It was also a reminder of just how powerful her voice is.

Venturing from one side of the stadium to another, a few lucky fans got high fives and handshakes, before she re-emerged on another platform, dressed in a classy, sparkling red playsuit.

It was back to the pop hits as Blank Space re-enlisted booming drums and epic chorus hooks, something continued by megahit Bad Blood as its eerie intro that transitioned into thundering bass.

The 2014 hit, mashed with Should’ve Said No, saw dancers flying around the stage while Swift ducked and weaved through its various platforms, spitting its lyrics with an intensity that gave punters another dose of adrenaline that not only saw them bouncing for the remaining songs but probably buzzing in the days that followed.

A mash-up of Long Live and New Year’s Day was a religious experience for many; some avid fans in tears watching their idol perched behind the piano for the ballads.

A video interlude, Why She Disappeared, bridged the gap before the encore, with the audience sitting in silence as they listened to its poetic message. It didn’t last long, as Getaway Car saw the venue erupt.

Swift wasn’t done yet, though, with confetti once again showering the audience as she danced alongside brightly dressed backing dancers on a stage that looked like something out of Vegas.

All the evening’s best musical and production elements culminated for a massive finale in We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together and This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things. Taylor Swift’s latest production delivers everything you could want from a stadium tour.

Show Review: Cher 12.10.18

Published on, Oct 2018

Pic by Ted Dana


Perth Arena

Oct 12

The abundance of sailor hats scattered around Perth Arena was fitting, not only given the headline act but the waves of excitement she brought with her.

DJ Andrew McClelland went above and beyond in his duties as a warm-up act, dishing up a smorgasbord of classic hits that rendered the space the hottest place in the country, both figuratively and literally.

“Ladies and gentlemen, Cher is ready,” he declared, and shortly after, Woman’s World played soundtrack to a dizzying, nostalgia-fuelled slideshow through her career, before the curtain dropped, revealing the pop icon to a standing ovation.

From thundering sampled drums to a soft piano line, Strong Enough signalled a slight change of pace, with Cher’s booming vocals taking centre stage over a tight disco jam.

An army of backing dancers dressed like Roman warriors offered up an intense energy and amplified a stage that resembled something from a classy Broadway production.

“I have to get a drink, then I’m going to tell you a fabulous story,” Cher said, taking punters back to the ’60s and conception of The Sonny & Cher Show, turning 40, calling David Letterman an arsehole to his face and more.

She stood solo on stage telling stories under a spotlight for 20 minutes, with most of the venue hanging off every word.

“Before I tell you my age, I just want you to know not so long ago I did a five-minute plank,” the 72 year old said. “What’s your granny doing tonight?”

She disappeared for the first of many costume changes and the stage transformed into an immersive Indian landscape to the tune of Gayatri Mantra, before Cher re-emerged riding a prop elephant.

The auto-tune was in fine form for All Or Nothing, before another costume change and nostalgic montage saw a return to the ’60s and another quirky yet classy callback with The Beat Goes On, fittingly carried by a tight snare drum and rolling toms.

“Don’t laugh, I’m on a Farewell tour,” Cher said as she dove into an anecdote of seminal hit of I Got You Babe, featuring Sonny on the big screen and delivered with such emotion it sent chills down the spine.

The team was cycling through elaborate sets just as quickly as songs, from a “Magical Mystery Circus & Carnival” for Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves to a Burlesque extravaganza, each designed in such a way to amplify their respective song’s meaning or tone.

The logistics in changing props and dressings meant backing dances were left to entertain the crowd for a third of the show, something they nailed through eclectic and captivating choreographed moves. While many of those interludes proved surprising set highlights, nothing could match an electric medley of ABBA hits that included Waterloo, SOS and Fernando, the latter of which had the crowd soaring in time to the song’s dramatic and haunting sustains.

By the set’s end, the general consensus among many was that Cher is only getting better with age, something you’d be hard pressed to argue during the execution of set closers If I Could Turn Back Time and Believe.

With a mixed bag of classic Cher hits and covers alongside anecdotes and TV/film clips on the big screen, the Here We Go Again Tour summed up her legacy perfectly in only a couple of hours.

INTERVIEW: Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould (Better Call Saul Season 4)

Published on, Sept 2018

The Real Tragedy Of ‘Better Call Saul’, According To Vince Gilligan & Peter Gould

Better Call Saul is a quiet achiever, at least when compared to its blockbuster predecessor Breaking Bad.

The journey of Jimmy McGill, delivered through Bob Odenkirk, doesn’t demand your attention, nor is it in your face, instead, those who give it time are taken on a carefully-paced, captivating ride that places more emphasis on ebbs and flows and character development. As it enters its fourth season and McGill becomes more like the Saul Goodman we know and love, the prequel is quickly approaching the same number of episodes as Breaking Bad.

“I used to have some brown hair, but now it’s all grey,” co-creator Peter Gould begins down the line, eliciting laughter from his partner in crime, Vince Gilligan.

“Peter’s doing a great job running this show and I’m walking down to the mailbox in my bathrobe, looking for cheques from Sony,” Gilligan adds.

Speaking of hard work, it didn’t take long for fans to crack a six-part puzzle the duo put out on social media recently, with those involved quickly figuring out it pointed to the superlab from Breaking Bad. “I can’t believe how fast the fans got the puzzle!” Gould tells.

Although they didn’t write the puzzle, Gilligan wanted it to be “as difficult as humanly possible”.

“The theories are all wonderful,” Gilligan says of fan speculation over the years. “At the end of Breaking Bad, Peter and I heard a lot of people saying Walter White wasn’t really dead or the whole thing was a dream.”

One of the key elements of Better Call Saul is its aforementioned calculated pace, with each episode delivering numerous surprises that even the most switched on fans would struggle to predict. Fan favourite Mike Ehrmantraut, played brilliantly by Jonathan Banks, quite often spends an entire episode doing things that have viewers on the edge of their seats, scratching their heads.

“They really are totally different shows,” Gilligan says. “Peter and I were both worried in the beginning, a) should we even be doing a spin-off from Breaking Bad? And, b) how can we differentiate it from Breaking Bad? Will it be different enough, or will it be kind of an extension of the first show? Which, maybe in itself, wouldn’t have been a terrible thing, but I really wanted to do something different.

“I remember worrying a lot in the early days about differentiating the two shows, and turns out a lot of my fears were unfounded because [the cast and crew] really have created an entire universe of their own and a show that stands on its own two feet and is its own entity, it’s its own thing.

“I’m delighted by the number of times every week that I hear someone say, ‘I never really watched Breaking Bad that much, it was too violent for me, but I’ve been watching Better Call Saul and I love that show.’”

The show’s fourth season is now airing, continuing the “tragic devolution” of Jimmy McGill. Given it’s a prequel, he’s inexorably becoming the lovable character we know from Breaking Bad. “If you watched Breaking Bad you think, ‘Oh, it’s not so bad – Saul Goodman was fun,’” Gilligan tells. “He was always getting some kind of massage to completion in his office or had a bottle of vodka; he loves his life, he’s having a good time and doesn’t have any quails, he sleeps well at night even though he’s breaking the law every chance he gets.

“Season four is another inexorable step toward being this guy that nobody wants him to be, least of all he himself, and that’s the real tragedy of this show.”

The continual devolution to-date has been heartbreaking and sheds a lot of light on the character, with the season three finale marking a tragic death for his brother, Chuck. And although his relationship with loving girlfriend Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) is seemingly going well, she’s not around in Breaking Bad, signalling another major turning point for the lead is just around the corner.

“The Jimmy McGill of season four does things that I think would have repelled the Jimmy McGill we met at the beginning of season one,” Gould tells. “That’s sad, but, as Vince said, I always feel that this guy has a soul and maybe there’s a shot at redemption.

“I love what you say about Jimmy and Kim, and this season, boy, these two characters… They have such a wonderful, adult, real love story. I go back and forth between being happy that they’re together and feeling so good when things are going well for them, but also knowing in the pit of my stomach maybe this isn’t going to last.”

Outside of cryptic social media posts, the two aren’t really able to reveal too much as far as season four specifics go, especially when it comes to the superlab, which they certainly don’t want to spoil. “It’s ingrained in both of us to try not to ruin anything,” Gilligan mentions, before Gould quickly interjects: “I’ll say this, I’ve always been a big fan of the early James Bond films and you would see things like the secret base inside the volcano in You Only Live Twice by brilliant production designer Ken Adam.

“I’m always fascinated by these secret locations and hidden places. I also wondered, ‘How did that come to be?’ And so, we’ll see, we might learn some more about that this season.”

With more and more Breaking Bad references popping up each episode, an increasing amount of the show’s cast making an appearance – including Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), Lydia Rodarte-Quayle (Laura Fraser) and more, and Jimmy’s rapid devolution, it seems we’re fast approaching the end of Better Call Saul.

“That’s kind of tough,” Gilligan says on an end date. “It was the same with Breaking Bad – how many episodes do you have? How many hours left in this story? Sometimes when you’re in the writers’ room, you can’t really see the forest from the trees, is that safe to say, Peter?”

“Absolutely,” Gould responds. “We haven’t really figured out how much more story there is; I think we’re getting closer to the end than the beginning, I’d say that much.

“It’s an interesting thing because this show doesn’t have the same kind of endpoint that Breaking Bad did. From the very first episode, we felt that Breaking Bad was going to be a story about not just the life of Walter White, but also the death of Walter White.

“This show does something a little different in that we keep seeing glimpses of life after Saul Goodman, so maybe there’s a chance for this story to end in a different way from the others, but we really don’t know all the answers just yet.”

Better Call Saul season four is now streaming via Stan.

Show Review: Bob Dylan 08.08.18

Published on, Aug 2018

Bob Dylan

Perth Arena

Aug 8

Bob Dylan plays by his own rules. It’s likely why, after 38 studio albums, countless awards and a recent Nobel Prize, the US music icon only filled Perth Arena to half its capacity.

“Is that Family Guy?” one fan asked, pointing to another’s phone in which a cartoon rendition of the headline act was picking a fight with Popeye. Indeed, “Not much is really sacred.”

Said phone was soon secured into the owner’s pocket with a stern voice over the PA warning that any photography would result in eviction.

As promised on the ticket, the show began at 8:00pm sharp, with the crisp plucking of an acoustic guitar echoing throughout the room before the man of the hour strolled out and assumed his position behind the piano for Things Have Changed.

The band navigated its ebbs and flows like they were jamming, as their fearless leader spat its lyrics through his trademark hoarse voice.

With minimal, dimmed lighting around the stage, the band settled into It Ain’t Me Babe, which was almost unrecognisable; its original folk qualities traded in for a blues-rock edge.

During his 2014 theatre tour, Dylan hid behind two big microphones and the brim of his hat the entire show, but his return saw him under the spotlight, rocking out behind the keys, showcasing an infectious energy in Highway 61 Revisited, before slurring it up in Simple Twist Of Fate.

The song’s relaxed pace, slide guitar and soaring harmonica parts were poetic, eventually bouncing into an upright bass-driven shuffle for Duquesne Whistle. It was almost like someone had removed the stage from a small underground jazz bar and placed it within an arena, as the band continued to jam in a casual manner around an increasingly more energised Dylan.

When I Paint My Masterpiece elicited a solo slow clap from the nosebleed section, piercing the dead silence Dylan refused to fill between songs before the band added a surf rock twang to the night with Honest With Me. It’s a shame that Dylan doesn’t dish up anecdotes from his prolific career, as he’d no doubt have some mindblowing stories.

It takes some getting used to the unconventional way in which Dylan pieces together his setlist and structures his songs live, but once you let go of any expectations, the artist’s intentions become more clear, with each song adding different strokes to a bigger picture.

Carefully emphasised guitar parts and piano lines throughout Make You Feel My LoveEarly Roman Kings and Desolation Row added a wealth of emotional depth, while the occasional clear vocal line cut through with more impact; lyrics such as “Life is short and it don’t last long,” during Pay In Blood.

Love Sick was a stompy blues onslaught that opened up into a jam session before another classic reared its head in Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right; a seminal hit that had the crowd cheering loudly for the first time since Dylan came out onstage. It was a welcome addition to the set, but a sad reminder for many the night was coming to an end with only a few classics in the bag.

A wave of chaotic noise washed over the crowd for Thunder On The Mountain, with a flurry of drums smashing head first into a medley of guitars before things pulled back for delicate ballad Soon After Midnight and upbeat tune Gotta Serve Somebody.

Two hours on the stage and Dylan didn’t address the audience once — not even a “hello” or “goodbye” — and the few big singles that did make the cut were reinterpreted in a manner that rendered them nearly unrecognisable; half the audience didn’t identify encore tune Blowin’ In The Wind until its chorus.

Diehard Dylan fans left in awe, while casual listeners were either scratching their heads or disgruntled about the lack of hits and showmanship. Bob Dylan plays for Bob Dylan.

Show Review: Celine Dion 04.08.18

Published on, Aug 2018

Pic by Ted Dana

Celine Dion

Perth Arena

Aug 4

A handful of pop superstars had graced the Perth Arena stage with their presence in the weeks prior to that of Canadian royalty Celine Dion, all of whom brought with them mind-blowing, extravagant production.

The arrival of Dion seemed to have a more chilled out atmosphere surrounding it, and the packed venue suggested it was her renowned voice and not all the bells and whistles usually accompanying an international tour of this size that punters were anxiously awaiting.

The chatter turned to a roar as the lights were killed and a theatrical intro took hold, uplifted by a medley of dramatic strings. It was stadium pop at its finest as booming drums became entangled with heavy harmonies and screeching guitar. The wall of noise finally eased up as Dion casually strolled into the spotlight in a blinding gold suit to the soaring chorus line of The Power Of Love.

Her powerful voice struck like lighting and left a shock that felt like a lifetime of heartbreak kicking you in the chest.

Grinning ear to ear, Dion and co shuffled into uplifting number That’s The Way It Is, reconnecting with Aussie fans after almost a decade apart.

“Tonight, what do you say we make up for that lost time?” she asked, and punters were more than ready to comply as they screamed the lyrics of I’m Alive and Because You Loved Me.

Through a series of shiny, futuristic images, the screens around the stage added another level of depth to the production, without taking away from the songs and Dion, whose lack of big dance moves were compensated by her big personality and mesmerising vocals.

Dion briefly left the stage while her backing band unleashed an emotionally intense score that wouldn’t seem out of place in a blockbuster film, before she re-emerged in a new outfit and continued the theatrical affair with It’s All Coming Back To Me Now, her voice reaching gritty new heights in its final moments.

The scene was set for Beauty And The Beast, and joined by backing singer Barnev Valsaint, Dion delivered the nostalgic and iconic tune in a unique way that highlighted how much of a theatrical feel her performances have.

It was her first film theme (“a long, long, long time ago”) and one of her most adored, alongside “the one about the big, sinking boat”, but it was another theme and its accompanying anecdote that had everyone on the edge of their seat and laughing. The story began with a letter from fellow Canadian Ryan Reynolds and ended with Deadpool 2’s Ashes.

Classical guitar and flute shifted the mood, with Dion and dancer Pepe Munoz channelling the intimacy of Falling Into You into a romantic, calculated Latin dance before punters were transported to another world with Pour Que Tu M’aimes Encore, “the biggest song of my French career,” as she noted.

Things took a surprising and local turn with the iconic electronic drum intro of John Farnham’s You’re The Voice, bringing fans to their feet, clapping and screaming along. It was a risky song choice, but one that paid off greatly.

Dion touched on a recent and difficult time in her life, mourning the death of her husband, Rene Angelil, back in 2016. She praised Pink – who had performed the same venue only a few weeks earlier – for a gift in the form of a song that gave her strength during the heartache.

Recovering stripped things back to a delicate piano line for a powerful moment that proved all Dion needed was her voice to stun.

The emotional rollercoaster kept climbing, through the ebbs and flows of All By Myself, and a touching string quartet rendition of Janis Ian’s At SeventeenA New Day Has Come and Unison before soaring through the big choruses of To Love You More.

A medley of disco bridged the gap while Dion disappeared again, and her band led an epic dance party that re-energised the audience. Dion strolled out on a wave of funky bass in an outfit plucked straight from the ’70s, adding pop star flair to a number of hits from the era before paying tribute to Prince with an uplifting version of Purple Rain, the venue illuminated in a colour to match while Kaven Girouard gave the song the guitar shredding it deserved.

The soul-pop onslaught continued with Love Can Move Mountains and River Deep, Mountain High, before the mood shifted again as the haunting vocal melodies of seminal hit My Heart Will Go On floated out from the darkness for the encore; half the room was wiping tears from their eyes while the other watched along through a phone screen.

Promising to return sooner next time, Dion and co left fans with a parting gift in Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling In Love With You. Celine Dion engenders loyalty from fans like few others and after witnessing her live, it’s clear why.