Listening to Helen Reddy perform is somewhat frustrating.
Following her outstanding performance Friday, accompanied by the Utah Symphony, you want to drive to your local record store and purchase a latest hit on compact disc. You remember that it was more than just a few years ago that Reddy's award-winning hits were on the charts. And you wish you could hear her distinctive Australian voice on the radio more often.While Reddy has virtually left the show part of show business to pursue business interests with her own company, her command of an audience, her strong voice and engaging stage presence remain as powerful as the days when she performed in New York's Carnegie Hall and London's Royal Albert Hall.
"I've been in the business 40 years now," she told the Salt Lake crowd Friday. "And I've learned a lot about show biz."
In show business since age 4, the Austrialian-born singer was a vaudeville performer, radio actress, hostess of her own television series and motion picture star. The combination of all these talents was evident in her flawless performance Friday - filled with wit, warmth, a little dancin' and bits of art-of-good-living wisdom.
Rapport with the audience came easily.
"We all have sometimes when our lives are full of ups and downs. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose.
"This song is for the times when you feel you're losing - but you're always a winner if someone loves you," she said, introducing the song "Winner in Your Eyes."
Her enjoyment of the Utah audience was obvious. Reddy has always lauded the beauty of Utah and regularly spent hours researching genealogy here.
When she introduced "Candle on the Water" from her film "Pete's Dragon," audience applause indicated Utahns' familiarity and fondness for the film.
Encouraged by the enthusiastic audience response, Reddy deviated from her agenda, singing "Somewhere in the Night."
For background, she shared an interaction she had once with Barry Manilow, whose version of "Somewhere in the Night" is better known than Reddy's:
Backstage, Manilow told her, in a moment of candor, "You know, Helen. Your version is really better than mine."
After a moment's pause, she answered simply, "Yea."
While Reddy exudes confidence on the stage, she is surprisingly personable and charmingly self-effacing.
"I'll bet you're all gazing at my youthful appearance," she joked.
Concluding her concert, she talked about the song she said she "wrote 17 years ago - when I was only 3" - "I Am Woman."
It was like turning on the radio in the mid '70s. The pride and energy that inspired women to adopt Reddy as the unwitting symbol of feminism rang through Symphony Hall.
The audience cheered, standing for an ovation.
It is clear that Reddy is welcomed in Salt Lake City - as a performer and as a friend of the symphony.
Proceeds from her performance will aid the symphony in maintaining the musicians' retirement benefits.