Tag Archives | Olivia Summer Nights

Devoted to Olivia

I was sorry to learn today that Olivia Newton-John is “reluctantly postponing her June U.S. and Canadian concert tour dates”, according to an authorized statement on her behalf, as the back pain the singer initially attributed to her sciatica “has turned out to be breast cancer that has metastasized to the sacrum.” Olivia pledged in the announcement to pursue natural wellness therapies, complete a short course of photon radiation therapy and is “confident she will be back [on tour] later in the year, better than ever…”

I decided on my direction of therapies after consultation with my doctors and natural therapists and the medical team at my Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia,” says Olivia Newton-John.

I have long admired her work as an actress, songwriter and singer—since the 1970s, when I first heard Olivia’s hit songs on AM radio during family road trips to Wisconsin and soon discovered Olivia’s albums in record stores. I had the pleasure to meet and interview Olivia at her home in Malibu and, years later, backstage at her shows at the Greek and in Las Vegas, where I attended a preview concert which was the basis for her Vegas show’s first review.

Buy the Album

I know firsthand that Olivia, whose 2008 duets album, A Celebration in Song, provides some of the best music for those with cancer, is a thriver, as she once told me. This outstanding artist is a leading champion for finding a cure for cancer and she does so with grit, grace and strength. As I wrote of her collection of inspirational songs on this blog in 2009, Olivia makes music “for anyone battling cancer or any of life’s difficulties.” From the opening anthem, “Right Here with You” to the last track, Belinda Emmett’s (1974-2006) “Beautiful Thing,” it’s one of her best. “Courageous” is the perfect tune for summoning one’s innermost abilities to thrive in life. I’m wishing courageous Olivia a speedy recovery and the best of everything with love.

Rescheduled concert dates will be posted on her official Web site “in the coming weeks”, according to the statement.


Related Links

Official Olivia Newton-John Web site

Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre

Exclusive Concert Review: Olivia Newton-John in Las Vegas

Music Review: ‘Hotel Sessions’ by Olivia Newton-John

Music Review: ‘This Christmas’ by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John

Exclusive Interview: Brett Goldsmith on ‘Hotel Sessions’ by Olivia Newton-John

Olivia Newton-John to Release New 2-Disc Live in Las Vegas

ONJ_LiveInLasVegas_webLook for a new, live album from Olivia Newton-John sooner than later.

The singer and actress recently announced that she’s making a two-disc album based on her first headline residency in Las Vegas, which premiered last spring (read my review here). The live album, Summer Nights: Live in Las Vegas and pictured here, will presumably include songs from her set list for the Flamingo Las Vegas show. This means it’s essentially a greatest hits live album, though a track listing has not yet been disclosed.

Olivia recorded an extended play record last year, Hotel Sessions, with her nephew, Brett Goldsmith, which I discussed with Brett in an exclusive interview. Previously, her last new recording to go on sale was This Christmas with John Travolta (read my review here) in 2012.

Music Review: Hotel Sessions by Olivia Newton-John

hotel+sessions

Click to Buy

An extended play recording of seven unreleased demo tracks by legendary artist Olivia Newton-John is on sale exclusively at Olivia’s new residency venue in Las Vegas, The Flamingo. The set goes on sale soon on her Web site and iTunes.

The new songs – titled Hotel Sessions because the music was recorded between 2002 and 2011 at various hotels in Olivia’s hometown, Melbourne, Australia – come in conjunction with her new Las Vegas show “Summer Nights” opening this week (read my exclusive review here).

Produced by Olivia’s nephew, Brett Goldsmith (except where otherwise noted), who wrote or co-wrote three of the songs and whose iPhone photos provide CD cover art, Hotel Sessions is a fresh, mature and surprisingly polished series of techno-pop demo cuts. The opening song, “Ordinary Life”, is a simple guitar looping, driving anthem. The buoyant “Best of My Love” is an instantly enjoyable ode to someone who is hard to love and there’s a dance remix included as a bonus. “End in Peace”, co-written by Olivia Newton-John, is a ghostly prayer for better days which faintly recalls “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” in melody and vocals, “Bow River” rocks and pops with ONJ torching it against backup vocals, piano and synthesizer and Olivia’s cover version of Mr. Mister’s 1980s’ hit “Broken Wings” is, in Olivia’s care, less strained and slightly faster. I never liked the original much and I like her rendition here fine but the dance remix of the cover, which with piano added and ONJ high notes and bass enhanced is more urgent, is even better.

The independent ONJ Productions EP, which is being released after the death of Olivia’s sister, is thoughtfully “Dedicated to our sister & mother Rona Newton-John”.

Review: Summer Nights by Olivia Newton-John at The Flamingo Las Vegas

ONJSNFLVOlivia Newton-John’s first Las Vegas residency, inside the Donny & Marie Showroom at Caesar Entertainment’s Flamingo Hotel and Casino, is an intimate, poignant show she calls “Summer Nights”. The 20-plus song production premiered this week. I’ve met and written about Olivia over the years at various stages of her extraordinary career and, in Vegas for a conference, I wanted to see her new show before the grand opening.

The iconic star emerged looking and sounding fabulous. Stepping out in black and white, framed by the venue’s familiar pink, her understated stage presence is as relaxed, seasoned and elegant as the themes of her earliest hit records. After decades of recording, filming and touring, Olivia is a masterful artist, who, like Doris Day, never really gets the serious credit she deserves. With a refreshing emphasis on music, Olivia sang her most popular and audience-friendly songs and a few cover tunes. Her 45-date engagement runs through August.

In perfect tune on every song from “Physical” to “Have You Never Been Mellow”, Olivia clearly takes care of herself. Her voice, which still expresses her unique blend of struggle, strength and sweetness, achieves clarity in every song and clarity defines her superior vocal style. She moves with ease in simple, playful choreography that wisely lets the spotlight stay centered on the 65-year-old pop star. The skilled eight-piece band and spot-on backup singers play against a black and white stage design, which complements ONJ’s pronounced style. She kept banter light and humorous.

Xanadu soundtrack songs include the hits “Magic” and “Suddenly” and the show features luminous images from the 1980 picture, from movie publicity stills to clips of her film character, Kira, dancing with co-star Gene Kelly. “Summer Nights” includes themed segments for Grease (1978) songs (“We Go Together”, “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee (reprise)”, “Hopelessly Devoted to You”, “Summer Nights” and “You’re the One That I Want”) and a medley of Olivia’s early country recordings and hits, including “Country Roads”, “If You Love Me Let Me Know”, “Please Mr. Please” and “Let Me Be There”. The show’s title number, the boy-girl, tell-me-more ensemble duet from Grease, is a crowd pleaser. When the audience added its own pathetic attempt at the heavy sigh that was originally John Travolta‘s oh at the climax of the story in song, Olivia hilariously broke character and turned to the audience in mock horror, a brief moment of self-awareness which made the finale all the more satisfying for everyone in the room. “Summer Nights” employs a jovial, even raucous, sense of life. It’s hard not to have a blast when she’s singing about “good, Kentucky whiskey”, getting animal and a place where nobody dared to go.

Though this longtime fan missed hearing Olivia perform songs from Two of a Kind, Back with a Heart, Soul Kiss, Grace and Gratitude and The Rumour, the show is a musical journey from “I Honestly Love You” (1974) to ONJ’s Brazilian-influenced Gaia anthem “Not Gonna Give Into It” (1994) and more, so it is understandable why certain songs didn’t make the final set list. Whatever one’s favorite moment or song from the remarkable career of Olivia Newton-John, some of the most powerful performances in “Summer Nights” are her covers of “Cry Me a River”, “Over the Rainbow” and the stirring rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s layered “Send in the Clowns” from the 1973 musical A Little Night Music. The mystery of what moves us in music is of course enormously complicated, so each member of the audience will be touched in some unique way by Olivia’s incredible range in theme, technique and life experience. But you will never think of Olivia as a mere pleasant voice or source for fun pop diversion from the past again. Here, she delivers a rewarding sample of why she is the best.

The impeccable performance – expect stark staging, not glitz ala Cher or Celine Dion – stems from ONJ’s status as a true pop music diva who has earned every dollar; she was an opening act for Charlie Rich at the Las Vegas Hilton in the summer of 1974, worked with Don Rickles, Eddie Rabbit and other Vegas acts, so Olivia knows the boulevard’s demands and strikes the proper tone for a show that combines glamor and ability. Her 40th year return to performing in Las Vegas, this time in headline residency, is a triumph.

The fact that Olivia recently lost her sister, Rona, to cancer, makes the charitable part of this production especially meaningful. In 1992, Olivia was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her personal thriving led her to create a partnership with the Austin Health and the creation of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre (ONJCWC) in her hometown of Melbourne, Australia. Olivia donates a portion of the $68-$249 ticket price to the ONJCWC, which provides comprehensive services for cancer treatment, education, training and research as well as a dedicated wellness center.

Who:: Olivia Newton-John

What: Summer Nights

Where: The Flamingo Las Vegas

When: April through August

How Much: $68 to $249

New Music Interview: Henry Jackman

HJCATWSRead the new interview I recently conducted with Captain America: The Winter Soldier composer Henry Jackman on The New Romanticist. In this exclusive interview about America’s top movie, a Marvel Studios picture which exceeded expectations to earn $96 million in the opening weekend, Jackman talks about the meaning of music for film, whether he sees man as heroic and whom between Captain America and Captain Phillips, another title character from the last film he scored, he would prefer to have as a dinner guest.

This is one of my most free-wheeling interviews – we went into overtime – and, besides The King’s Speech composer Alexandre Desplat and Grammy-winning songwriter Melissa Manchester, who co-wrote a song for The Weinstein Company’s Dirty Girl with Mary Steenburgen, it offers a closer examination of the creative process of telling stories through motion pictures. I hope readers enjoy the new interview as much as I did.

Speaking of music, I am still enjoying what I listen to on CD and iTunes, from James Blunt, Stevie Nicks and Elton John to Avicii, and newly remastered or released recordings by the great conductor Arturo Toscanini. I am also working on an exclusive new series of interviews with one of my favorite artists, Melissa Manchester, who is making a new, crowdfunded album (her 20th!) of the great American songbook with new tunes she wrote and appearances by classic jazz and pop artists. I’ve been privileged to attend recording sessions for the new work and I am excited. This week, I am planning to attend a preview of a new, live show, Summer Nights, by another favorite artist, Olivia Newton-John, at her residency at the Donny and Marie Showroom in the Flamingo Las Vegas. Olivia also has a new record, which I plan to review. New music from legendary artists and for enjoyable movies (and my writing teacher Leonard Peikoff just announced an amateur jazz performance at OCON in Las Vegas this summer) should make for more good tunes throughout the year.