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Paul Mann: Olivia Newton-John Brings Nearly Five Decades of Pop Hits to Chumash Casino Resort

Australian pop diva Olivia Newton-John performs before a sold-out crowd at her Nov. 17 concert at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez. Click to view larger
Australian pop diva Olivia Newton-John performs before a sold-out crowd at her Nov. 17 concert at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez. (L. Paul Mann / Noozhawk photo)

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One of pop music’s most enduring legends, Olivia Newton-John, brought her elaborate live performance to a sold-out crowd at the Chumash Casino Resort on Nov. 17.

The elegantly dressed singer with a stunning vocal range opened with her biggest hit single, "Magic."

The 68-year-old performer exuded passion and energy from the opening song, smiling and bantering with the adulate crowd throughout the night. The former Santa Barbara resident made  a point of acknowledging her many friends and former musical collaborators who were in attendance. The singer brought the crowd to their feet early in the show with her second song of the set, the title track from the Xanadu movie.

The Australian pop diva led her seven-piece ensemble of talented guest singers and veteran musicians through a tightly constructed 21-song set list that spanned her career of nearly five decades. The singer-actress, who is no stranger to the camera, also incorporated a stunning video production in the oversized video screens in the Samala showroom at the resort. Interspersed with the usual high-quality live video on the screens was the virtual life story of the singer from childhood to modern day. The visuals included scenes from her hit movies, as well as her journeys across the world.

The band moved to the front, offering an acoustic background halfway through the show, as the singer did a medley of some of her older hit songs. The energy turned electric again as the ensemble broke into a loud and rambunctious version of "Physical," from the singer's most successful music video.

The singer then turned to more recent material, including "The Promise (A Dolphin Song)," dedicated to her efforts to protect dolphins, and "Don’t Cut Me Down," dedicated to another one of her passionate projects to help save the forests of the world. The songs each were paired with their own stunning videos of awe-inspiring images of dolphins and rainforests.

Newton-John then took the audience on an even more emotional journey, playing "Live On" and "Don’t Give In to It," two songs she wrote about her personal battle with breast cancer and the loss of her mother to the dreaded disease. The video during the two songs featured an array of images from her various fundraising efforts to battle cancer, including her work to establish the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia.

The music returned to a more joyous theme for the final songs of the show, focusing on her biggest hits from the musicals Grease and Xanadu. This had many in the crowd dancing in the aisles.

The singer ended the show with a heartfelt version of "I Honestly Love You" and yet another stunning cover of "Over the Rainbow," with a jaw-dropping vocal finale.

— L. Paul Mann is a Noozhawk contributing writer. The opinions expressed are his own.

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