I fell fast for Conchita when she graced the Eurovision stage in Copenhagen in 2014. I had never seen anything like her. Looking beyond the beard, she performed with such poise and passion. I was entranced. When she gave her victory speech and uttered those immortal words, “We are unstoppable” I applauded loudly from my lounge room. Her victory seemed to stand for something bigger. While “Rise Like a Phoenix” was undoubtedly the song of the competition, her win went beyond the ballad, indicating an acceptance of diversity and difference so timely as the world fought for marriage equality.
Unlike so many Eurovision winners, Conchita has refused to fade away. She’s visited Australia several times since her big win, but last Thursday was her first full-length concert in Sydney. And didn’t she do it in style. Backed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, on the stage of the Opera House’s concert hall, supported by some of the best talents in the land, this show was so deserving of the diva.
Conchita started the night paying tribute to one of her greatest inspirations, Dame Shirley Bassey. “Where Do I Begin?” was such a fitting introduction to the night, easing us into the performance before Trevor Ashley, appearing as Ms Bassey herself, joined Conchita for a stunning cover of “Diamonds are Forever.” Never one to hog the limelight, Conchita graciously stepped aside to give “Shirley” her moment on “Goldfinger.” Dame Shirley’s shoes are big ones to fill, but Trevor’s vocals and mannerisms were spot on.
The night continued in much the same vein, with Conchita treating us to some of her favourite covers and tracks from her own album, interspersed with anecdotes about her journey and life after Eurovision. She was joined every now and again by our homegrown acts. Courtney Act seems like she’s only gotten stronger since Australian Idol. She joined Conchita for “River Deep, Mountain High” because going solo with an emotional performance of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.”
Paul Capsis showed why he’s one of Australia’s most acclaimed cabaret performers, joining Conchita for a breathtaking cover of “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).” The enthusiasm with which he performed Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” was something to behold.
On paper Guy Sebastian might have seemed a little out of place, a fairly vanilla addition on such a fabulously colourful night. However, reprising his breakout Australian Idol performance of “Climb Every Mountain” with Conchita was sublime. “Tonight Again,” the song he sang at Eurovision, was the perfect solo song for this crowd.
And of course there was Dami Im, Australia’s newest Eurovision star announced on the night. Her incredible version of “Waterloo” should have left no doubt in the audience’s minds that she’s the right woman for the job.
There were so many stars, but none shone brighter than Conchita. She anchored the evening beautifully, performing with such elegance and style. She has so much charisma and one of the best voices I’ve heard. I was feeling a little fatigue after so many concerts close together, but as I rose to my feet and confetti rained down while Conchita waved goodbye, I was on cloud nine. What a way to end such a busy concert period.
Image source: own photos