Sugar and spice

Sugar and spice

Commercially viable, usually. Middle-of-the-road, certainly. And never too sassy.

With the odd exception (1990’s I Need Your Body and a brief turn as Cabaret‘s Sally Bowles in Sydney in 2002 come to mind), wholesomeness has been Tina Arena’s professional trademark ever since her debut as a pint-sized performer on Young Talent Time in the 1970s.

Even her performance at the Mardi Gras party in March, after an appearance in 1991 and a 1997 Sleaze show, managed to play it safe.

The streak of attitude that shoots down the phone line as Arena talks up her debut DVD makes for a refreshing departure.

Whilst all these other people who have been in the business for five seconds have already got two DVDs to their collection, I have a career of three decades and there was not one, Arena said from London, her main home these days.

Recorded during concert dates at Sydney’s State Theatre last December and released last month, Tina Arena Greatest Hits Live is an account of Arena’s work over the last decade or so.

I took the punt and I produced it because nobody else was interested in doing it, and I did it for my fans, Arena said.

So many fans have written over the years to Sony and said, -˜Why haven’t you produced a DVD?’ and Sony hasn’t really been able to give them a decent answer.

-˜So I went in the end, -˜Fuck it. I’ll do it myself.’

And I’m really proud of it.

Perhaps impending motherhood has given Arena a new perspective (the singer is expecting her first child, a son, this month).

Or maybe it’s her distance from the country that has by turns embraced her and reacted with indifference.

Arena’s 1994 album Don’t Ask and singles like Chains were certified Australian hits. But follow-up efforts In Deep and Just Me sold less spectacularly, and the Melbourne-born performer copped a critical mauling for Cabaret.

Now based in Paris and London, Arena, 38, has turned her attention to the French market of late.

In Deep and a single from the film The Mask Of Zorro in 1998 found their mark with Gallic fans, and Arena’s first full-length French album is due out next month.

Do beckoning international opportunities mean Arena has left Australia for good? Or might she make a splashy return to her hometown just in time for next year’s Commonwealth Games?

I’ll be just a very new mother -¦ wait and see, Arena said cryptically.

I’m not really sure. I can’t say anything yet. But it’s bloody exciting.

Tina Arena Greatest Hits Live is out now.

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