ABOARD CARNIVAL ECSTASY — It’s Saturday and we are docked in Nassau, Bahamas. After a day of fun, food and shopping, it’s getting closer to the event many passengers on this cruise have waited for: Olivia Newton-John in concert.
Prior to that evening’s show, the group that opted for “VIP” tickets waited for Ms. Newton-John to arrive, sipping champagne in the Stripes disco. Besides admittance to a private reception, VIP ticket holders had the chance to have a personal photo made with the singer-songwriter-actress who has sold over 100 million records worldwide during her career.
For us, it marked something of a reunion.
During most of the 1970s, I was the rock music writer for The Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram, and it was my duty (because someone has to do it!) to review all the new albums as well as the concerts that came through town. And the Metroplex being what it is, Dallas-Fort Worth played host to the biggest names in the business.
During that time, Ms. Newton-John made a concert appearance at the Six Flags Over Texas Music Mill Theater, and I had the pleasure, along with Pam, to go backstage and interview her. So having the opportunity to meet her again was a special treat for us. Even better, she is as beautiful and gracious now as she was then.
After the photos were all done, we made our way to the VIP section of the Blue Sapphire Lounge, where the crowd was amped up and ready to party, including the women in the front row sporting the “Pink Ladies” jackets made famous in “Grease.”
Backed by a band and backup singers, Ms. Newton-John took the stage and launched into a series of hits and musical styles that spanned every phase of her career, from her country-western beginnings, to her mega-hit “Grease,” “Xanadu” and beyond.
The songs included hits like “If Not for You,” “Let Me Be There,” “If You Love Me, Let Me Know” and “Have You Never Been Mellow,” from her early years. She also did her own version of “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” another audience favorite.
But the biggest reaction came when she performed the music from “Grease,” where she teamed on-screen with John Travolta to create one of the biggest hit musicals to ever come out of Hollywood. While Mr. Travolta couldn’t make the scene, he was ably represented in the high-energy duet, “You’re the One That I Want.” The vibe continued on “Summer Nights,” and it was clear her gyrating fans are, as the song goes, “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” Another highlight was “Magic,” from the musical, “Xanadu,” where her co-star was Gene Kelly.
One of our favorites was another Newton-John mega-hit, “Physical,” which, along with her spandex attire in “Grease,” helped shift her Sandy, girl-next-door image.
She finished her set with a heart-felt version of “I Honestly Love You.” I think the fans that crowded up to the stage were saying, “back at ya.”
Entertainer, cancer survivor, businesswoman … what may be most impressive is she is still out there, doing what she loves and what she does best — a baby boomer doing us other baby boomers proud and amassing a new fanbase at the same time.
Clearly, when it comes to measuring the success of the Live Concert series, Carnival has a hit on their hands. — Gerry and Pam