Tina Arena was one of a star-studded line-up at a benefit concert for Spiro Philipas, a respected Melbourne bass player. The concert was held at The Palace in St. Kilda, Melbourne, in late 1991. It featured many of the great names in Australian music, including Tim and Neil Finn, Vika and Linda Bull, Ross Hannaford, and Hammond player Mick "The Reverend" O'Connor. I had been asked to photograph the evening’s events, and arrived during afternoon rehearsals.
Winner of seven Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) awards, Tina is regarded by many as Australia’s greatest female singer. In 2015, she was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. In 2016, she received the honour of being made a Member of the General Division of the Order of Australia, for services to the music industry. She has sold over 10,000,000 records internationally, and has lived in Australia, the U.S.A., England and France, where she also received a national honour. Tina rose to fame as “Tiny” Tina on Australia’s television production ‘Young Talent Time’, and has since pursued a stellar career as a singer/song-writer. In 2017, she is celebrating forty years in the music industry.
Tina stepped on to the stage to run through her songs. I was a little awe-struck to be in the presence of such a star, yet she was so friendly and polite to deal with. When she launched into her first song, the hair on the back of my head stood up. That has always been my way of judging great works of art, whether it be painting, poetry, sculpture or music… if that electric ‘buzz’ happens, then I know I am witnessing truly fine art.
Later that evening, when Tina performed her set, she was absolutely electrifying. She sang true blues songs with such power and control, with such perfect diction, that I was having trouble seeing through my viewfinder; because my eyes were welling with tears. One of the songs she performed was an early version of her hit song "Chains". I had always thought of Tina as a ‘pop’ singer, but that concept, and her reputation as “Tiny” were completely swept away. This was pure vocal artistry of a magnificent order, as she genuinely poured her heart and soul into her music. All for the memory of her friend Spiro, who was a true “muso’s muso”. Sadly, Spiro died within the week following the concert.