Last night, Saturday 20 May, accompanied by contemporary musicians Aspasia Stratigou and Alexandros Tzouganakis — George Dalaras played Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena in what can only be described as a memorable and passionate expression of the diversity of Hellenism in the heart of Melbourne.

How might we do justice to someone whose career tells the story of our lives?

How might we begin to comprehend a career that spans the last six decades?

Through social, economic and political upheaval, the iconic George Dalaras remains an internationally-respected figure and a Greek national treasure.

Once in a generation

He has been called “the greatest singer of contemporary Greek popular music” (London, 1987) and has been compared to great musicians of the 20th century, collaborating with many across many different cultures.

It has been said that “he never stops searching, modernising, trying and surprising” (Hamishmar, Israel 1989).

His contributions to music and culture have been continually rewarded; awarded the JF Kennedy Award in 1994 for his significant contribution to the arts, humanities and his revival of the Rebetiko genre; and the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadorship in 2006, a designation by the United Nations for his advocacy in spreading the ideals of peace and understanding for Greek culture and heritage around the world.

George Dalaras’ ability to tell a story through song shone through, as did the artful honouring of some of Greece’s most lauded and respected composers, poets, musicians and songwriters; Mikis Theodorakis, Stavros Xarhakos, Manos Loizos, Manos Hadjidakis, Eleftheria Arvanitaki, Dimitra Galani, Haris Alexiou and Eleni Karaindrou to name a few he has collaborated with throughout his career.

Beginning with an ode to the late composer and songwriter Mikis Theodorakis (1925 – 2021), his voice, filled the stadium and reminded us how this was the voice that connected us to our childhood, the complex world of Greece through the 20th century, political upheaval, and the revival of the Rebetiko sound — a movement his own father was part of in the early 20th Century.

Song after song told the stories of the plight of refugees, the struggles of the working class, the cry for freedom or death in the face of oppression and the hope for something better, something united for the Greek diaspora in the years to come.

Dalaras began the show with an ode to the late composer and songwriter Mikis Theodorakis (1925 – 2021). Photo: Alkistis Gerassimou

His music left many in the crowd, including this writer, holding back tears as the repertoire moved from the old to the new, through to a small selection of experimental numbers made famous in the 1990s through collaborations with Pyx Lax, Vassilis Papakostantinou, Maria Farantouri, Haris and Panos Katsimihas.

On the edge of their seats singing every song, the energy in the crowd could be felt and seen — a collective urge to cry for justice, peace and Hellenism all in one breath and then, once all was said and done, get up and dance as only we Greeks can do.

Melancholic, celebratory, dark and light — all were on show by an artist whom is in a league of his own.

The show concluded with standing ovations, four encores and the multilingual chatter of the large crowd dispersing across Melbourne’s famous Tennis precinct concourse just before midnight.

The concert was bookended beautifully by the masterful Odysseas Elytis poem-put-to-music Sun of Justice (Της Δικαιοσύνης Ήλιε Νοητέ). An anthemic, powerful and moving song written by the Nobel Laureate (Literature, 1979) Odysseas Elytis as a cry for freedom, justice and progress during the Greek dictatorship and the years that followed its fall.

Still relevant today this final song was a gentle reminder that even through our greatest trials, hope remains.

The tour continues at Perth’s Concert Hall on May 22nd and concludes at Sydney’s State Theatre on May 26th.

George Dalaras on stage at Margaret Court. Photo: Alkistis Gerassimou