Arts / Reset Tina takes a walk on the wild side

Tina Arena still calls Australia home, though she spends three months in France every year and her nine-year-old son Gabriel catapults between two education systems and three languages, she tells arts editor HELEN MUSA

Singer Tina Arena… standing up against the institutionalised dumbing down of popular music.

Singer Tina Arena… standing up against the institutionalised dumbing down of popular music.

TINA Arena is one of Australia’s true superstar exports, having won a swag of World Music awards, sold four million records in France, starred in the West End production of “Chicago” and received a French knighthood from Nicolas Sarkozy.

It’s the same story at home, where she was a “Young Talent Time” star, became the first woman ever to win the ARIA for “Album of the Year”, sang the theme song “The Flame” at the 2000 Olympics and has been appointed a Barnardos Australia ambassador.

I’m talking to her by phone from Brisbane, where she’s in the middle of a five-week tour featuring hits from her first original English language release in 12 years, “Reset”.

We’ll see her at Llewellyn Hall on Saturday, September 6, in an act that she assures me, despite rumours of seriousness, “is really good fun”

Arena is excited to be working with her co-director, Bruce Ramus, who has staged international spectaculars for U2, R.E.M., Björk and David Bowie.

“Bruce has produced a really beautiful show with a story from the beginning to the end,” she enthuses.
Self-described as “this mad Aussie-Italian woman,” Arena has, with “Reset”, taken a walk on the wild side – standing up against the institutionalised dumbing down of popular music.

“I grew up listening to music from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, a particularly rich time, but the ball has been dropped a bit now,” she tells “CityNews”.

In “Reset,” she says, her aim has been “partially to take up the ball… to tell a story and take a musical journey that evokes depth and emotion… where the theme is about rebalancing things, about social observation, asking questions about the future.”

Two factors have played a part.

Arena admits that motherhood has played an important part in her personal revolution. As she says, raising a child now demands great responsibility. Today’s world, in her view, “is a world of enormous instability”.

Luckily, she has her mum and dad.

“My son is at school now but is being looked after by my parents for five weeks… basically, they feed him and take him to school… I’m at home three days a week during the five-week tour and then I’ll be at home.”

Then there’s the French connection.

“French people’s idea about pop music is a bit different from that in the Anglo music world, where people are more about technical ability than content,” Arena says

“The French like good lyrics, a good story and a good melody as opposed to a good singer.”

And the secret of her French success?

“I went to France without a real perspective, but made an effort to be able to communicate, to speak their language, with openness and honesty, it’s been really beautiful learning.”

Tina Arena, Llewellyn Hall, Saturday, September 6, bookings to ticketek.com.au or 132 849.

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