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REVIEW: Marcia Hines / Orange Civic Theatre / July 9, 2023

(L-R): Stef Furnari, Chris Luder, Marcia Hines and Ron Haryanto. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

By Peter Holmes

Best to get the disappointing bit out of the way first.

When I booked an $82.50 ticket for Marcia Hines’ second gig in Orange last weekend - a Sunday matinee at Orange Civic Theatre - just hours before the show, I did so on the basis of two things.

First, I wanted to see Marcia Hines sing. There was a single front row seat going begging on the Ticketek website, and it meant I would be able to watch her performance at close range.

Second, I wanted to see a smoking band - at the very least drums, percussion, guitar, bass, keyboards and backing vocalists, ideally a few horns - serving up her tastiest vintage disco grooves including You, Your Love Still Brings Me To My Knees and I Got The Music In Me, and her utterly compelling, full-fat-funk 1975 cover of the Stones’ Jumpin’ Jack Flash (one of the b-sides to her debut single Fire & Rain, the other being From The Inside).

For reasons that one assumes were based around cost, the band consisted of backing vocalists Chris Luder - who grinned so hard throughout his jaw must have been aching by show’s end - and Ron Haryanto, and percussionist Stef Furnari. That’s it.

Chris Luder (L) and Ron Haryanto. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

And while all three earned their fee - with Luder and Haryanto also serving as the support act Suit & Tie - it couldn’t paper over the feeling that a vocalist of Marcia Hines’ calibre deserved a full band in full flight, not backing tracks playing off twin laptops.

The only way back from this for me was for Hines to be such a mesmerising presence that I kind of forgot about the full band.

Stef Furnari's percussion setup. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

The lights dimmed, Furnari, Haryanto and Luder walked on to the stage. The 500-capacity theatre was around three quarters full.

The music to Rufus and Chaka Khan’s Ain’t Nobody, which Hines recorded in 2004, began and a spotlight shone into the aisle near an entry door to the theatre. Hines appeared from behind the door to raucous applause, and sang her way down and onto the stage.

Marcia Hines turns 70 on July 20. I have seen singers lose what made them magical. Praise be that Marcia Hines is not one of them.

Her voice - the unique tone, the lower register, the mid-range and the soaring higher notes - remained in stunningly good nick. Her technique - breathing, mic control - cannot be bought.

As the performance unfolded, it was clear that this was a special time for the audience, but also for Hines.

The crowd was mostly in their 60s and 70s and many had followed Hines - who left her native Boston in the US for Sydney as a mid-teen - since she was a young woman. They have seen her in Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar and other musicals; on Countdown; in the clubs, pubs and theatres; on Hey Hey It’s Saturday, Australian Idol.

Marcia Hines in a 1970s film clip.

The image Hines has projected to the public over the years has been one of calm, grace and humour.

There were moments during the show when you wondered whether she was wheeling out a bit of well-worn patter, as veteran showbizzers tend to do, but at others the connection with the audience was palpable.

For example, during Fire & Rain - the James Taylor song that Hines made her own - she stood right above us frontrowers - just a metre or two away, and looked directly into the eyes of a long-term fan who was there with her husband. Hines held her gaze for seconds as she sang.

Marcia Hines at Orange Civic Theatre. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

Hines is at the start of her ‘Still Shining’ tour. It will run to the end of November. The two shows in Orange were the third and fourth on the tour.

Over a career spanning more than 50 years she’s seen the top of the mountain, but also knows what it’s like to have to step aside for the next generation, to fall out with record labels, and wonder if there’s still space for you.

Marcia Hines working out in an early film clip.

Working her way through a set list that drew on all eras of her career, Hines seemed to be concentrating deeply, often with eyes closed, as each song began. It was as if she was finding her centre, clearing her mind, and focusing on the lyric in front of her.

Singing these ballads and groove songs, there was nowhere to hide, as the vocal performance carries them. The audience willed Hines to hit the notes and hold them, and she did.

Hines has never been much of a dancer, seemingly undertaking it more as a duty than a pleasure. As she got about the stage in medium heels she reminded a little of Tina Turner. But we weren’t there to watch her dance.

Stef Furnari during Jumpin' Jack Flash. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

The backing vocalists and Hines had rehearsed moves that have been around since Motown, and it gave the show come colour and movement, as did livewire Furnari working her congos, bongos, cymbals, chimes, synth drums and cowbell. She also sang backing vocals and played guitar on Jumpin’ Jack Flash.

Hines was wearing what might be described by someone who knows nothing about fashion as a sequined white crepe suit. She wore it well.

The little wireless microphone receiver hitched to the top of the back of her pants was also covered in the same material, which was a cute touch.

Her face was flawless under the lights and she had a muscular frame that suggested working out. A wrist dripping in bangles and some natty earrings. As the show progressed the jacket came off to reveal a tight short-sleeved top.

A 1979 single. YouTube.

The setlist included Time Of Our Lives (1999); I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1976); Something’s Missing (In My Life) (1979); You (1977); I Don’t Know How To Love Him (1972); Shining (1976); I Got The Music In Me (1976); a dance version of Gordon Lightfoot’s If You Could Read My Mind; the aforementioned 1975 trio of Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Fire & Rain and From The Inside; a reggae take on Bill Withers’ Lean On Me from 2022’s ‘The Gospel According to Marcia’ stage show; and two new tracks Hard To Breathe and Last One Standing.

Hines took questions from the audience during a short Q&A session mid-show, and when the singer said she was about to turn 70, hundreds of people spontaneously sang her Happy Birthday.

Marcia Hines in a 1970s film clip.

The show closed with an encore of Disco Inferno, The Trammps’ mid-70s classic that Hines recorded in 2005 for her Discotheque album.

Hines and the band had a flight to catch. The house lights went up and what seemed like a very satisfied audience dispersed into a cool Orange afternoon.

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