Her highness Haroula
Haris Alexiou’s dramatic Melbourne performance left the audience star-struck
The dramatic stage presence of Haris Alexiou has to be experienced firsthand to be understood. She holds court on stage like a queen speaking to her beloved subjects, and the audience hails her every word.
For Haris Alexiou, one of the most influential Greek singers of all time, this response is mirrored in audiences all over the world. But even more so with her Australian fans who have patiently waited 17 years for her return. Her Australian tour began in Adelaide, followed by the second leg in Melbourne last Sunday night, held at The Plenary, part of the Melbourne Convention Centre complex.
Haris Alexiou was everything you would expect from an artist who has been performing for 40-plus years and released over 30 albums, many of which are the foundation of most Greek music home libraries. She opened with Mikis Theodorakis' Kratisa Ti Zoi Mou to an awestruck audience. In the state-of-the art theatre, the wonderful acoustics allowed the listener to take in all of the subtle undulations in her voice. Lending to the drama of the moment was the ethereal lighting, perfectly set to capture her every movement and the layers in her signature soft flowing silk dress.
Following her opening, she spoke with a tenderness that made you feel as if she was confiding in you. She has a flair for story telling, leaving you hanging on her every word. "Our homeland is now going through such terrible times, such bad days. We often thought of you all who left and emigrated to have a better life." And as soon as you thought things were starting to get serious, she would deliver the next line with deadpan humour and finish it with her charming slightly cheeky smile. Slowly and deliberately, she continued "We often thought 'those poor migrants who left Greece'. Now you all say 'those poor Greeks who stayed in Greece'." The crowd roared with laughter.
The first half of the concert had an artistic flair, allowing us to appreciate her throaty, dramatic voice as well as the incredibly proficient orchestra that accompanied her. When she delivered the moving Tango tis Nefelis, the crowd was so riveted that you could hear a pin drop in the room. Songs like Exartate and Fevgo reignited memories for many and had them singing along. As Alexiou has said before "Greeks outside of Greece don't want to hear a song just because it's in fashion, they want to hear the more classic songs."
The second half of the concert lent itself to such songs, like Fantaros and Zileia Mou which elicited a huge response. Alexiou had another opportunity to show her fun-loving side when Chris Konstantinidis, selected to dance To Zeimbekiko tis Evdokias on stage, came out in an army uniform. Halfway through his zembeikiko, she took off his hat, placed it on her own head and saluted. This kicked off the kefi, and her next song Apopse Thelo Na Pio sent a wave of dancing in the aisles. Later, her powerful rendition of Mana Mou Ellas had everyone lost in the moment.
Supported by Lizeta Kalimeri and Makis Sevilogou, the collaboration amongst the three artists was beautiful to hear. Alexiou is a class act, and you can see that she relishes the environment of the concert hall. It's not just about the song to her, but about the experience. She loved her audience and they loved her. Flashing that endearing smile, she exclaimed "That's what I want, for you to love me!"
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