February 24, 1989
Enchanted by a perfect Pet
Child starlet, 'sixties swinger and West End leading lady — Petula's Clark's been all three. And for those who thought the champagne days were over, she recently returned to the top of the charts with a souped-up version of her biggest ever hit "Downtown."
Tangible proof — if any were needed — of her continued appeal came at Fairfield on Saturday when she enchanted a packed house with a string of hits old and new. The reason behind Petula's on-going success is no big secret. Slim and attractive, she possesses the larger-than-life personality and faultless technique seldom seen among today's performers. Her voice, individual yet never less than perfectly pitched, retains a magical quality which carries effortlessly to all corners of the hall. Her actress training, too, is put to full use as she varies the mood constantly to reflect the music, ranging from beseeching in Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Memory," to clowning in Elton John's "Crocodile Rock" and simply compelling in the ballad "Let it Be Me."
Responsible in no small way for the success of the evening were Petula's eight-piece band and two backing singers. Together they managed to adapt to every requirement, from the barest piano accompaniment to the strains of a full orchestra in the epic "Life is a Song."
An early highlight on Saturday was the hugely likeable Tony Hatch/Jackie Trent composition "I Couldn't Live Without Your Love," which rattled along in fine style, re-creating the mood of the 'sixties. Charlie Chaplin's quirky character was recalled in his "This is My Song," made atmospheric and beguiling in turns by Petula and company.
Tributes to Elton John and Paul McCartney were slightly less successful, but an emotional rendering of "Edelweiss" from Petula's West End stint in The Sound of Music and a dramatic "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" more than compensated for any lapses. Then there was the inevitable "Downtown," a show-stopper in anyone's book. With no concessions to studio wizardry, Petula and her musicians turned out a faithful version of the recent dance-hall remix, winning a standing ovation at the end — the first of three that evening.
"The Other Man's Grass is Always Greener" and two ad-hoc numbers from the musical Goodbye Mr. Chips, which ended the show, received similar accolades.