By Punch Shaw
FORT WORTH - At most concerts, the headliner sings and the audience listens.
But at Bass Performance Hall Monday night, the audience turned the tables on Olivia Newton-John by offering up a spontaneous (and, truth be told, really ragged) version of Happy Birthday To You.
The song was a bit premature – she will not turn 56 until Sunday – but it was just one of many examples of how deeply the Aussie songbird’s fans adore her. They also brought forward bouquets of flowers and colorful shopping bags heavy with gifts, which the star accepted with a gracious glee you would not expect from someone who could probably buy the stores from which those gifts came.
Backed by a five-piece band and a pair of backup singers, Newton-John sailed through a set list that covered all of her biggest hits – Have You Never Been Mellow, Xanadu, Magic, You’re the One That I Want, Physical, Summer Nights, et al.
Some of her best moments were in the least familiar numbers in her show – a couple of tunes from an album scheduled to be released in October, Indigo, on which Newton-John covers hits by the great female singers of her youth. On a Julie London-inspired version of Cry Me a River, Newton-John placed the emphasis on her phrasing rather than pristine high notes, and the result was impressive. The same could be said of her skillfully structured and artfully subdued Alfie, from the original motion picture of that title.
So there was a lot of love in the room Monday night. The adoring audience of 1,450 might have been so thrilled to hear their favorites hits yet again that they may not have noticed that their perky little pop star could be trying to morph into a torch singer with her next album. But no worries, mate. If that happens, I’m sure they will bring flowers and presents to those concerts, too.