Dionne Warwick, Fairfield Halls, Croydon
Monday 25 February 2008
Her entrance was so low-key that half the audience hadn't realised that she'd arrived. No band intro, no following spotlight. There followed several faltering minutes during which she explained why she'd come, reprimanded her backing singers for talking during her opening spiel (well, I guess you can do that to your sister and your cousin), and called for the ushers to check on some poor unfortunate who'd started sneezing and yelping from the stalls. "Where was I? What next?" she said. "A song?" someone yelled.
And so – finally – began My Music and Me, a lengthy trawl through "all the hits and more" in her 40-year, Grammy-studded career. The "more" bit was the chat, delivered in the third person, with a healthy smattering of bitchy asides. She warmed up with a little gospel from her Baptist roots back in New Jersey – and as she did we could hear that the years had taken their toll on this most distinctive of soul/pop voices. The engaging huskiness is still a feature of the croony middle range but the rasping top is clearly a lot less predictable now.
Her first anecdote was almost too fanciful to be true, telling how her first single grew out of a tiff with Hal David and Burt Bacharach over exclusivity. Her warning – "Don't Make Me Over" – was the hit waiting to happen. She sang it with determination, relaxing now into those soulful melismas, really flying in the final measures. Warwick still takes the risks, she's still a gospel singer at heart, going where the spirit moves her. And even when the notes don't land she unlocks memories.
And it's the memories that most of us hear now. The stories help them along. Like the one about her first Paris gig ("Paris, France, that is") where she was met on the tarmac by a strange woman with a limo – Marlene Dietrich. Bacharach was, of course, Dietrich's music director and that was effectively the beginning of an extraordinary musical symbiosis. It's probably safe to say that there would have been no Warwick without him. She, in turn, put the soul into his quirky meters and deliciously dislocated melodies.
And so the songs tumbled out, one winner after another, with a few lethal left hooks at Cilla ("she had a degree of success with 'Anyone Who Had A Heart' but this is the original"), Sandie Shaw, and others. And then she left, thanking us for the memories. Ditto.
After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violencefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
- 2 West poised to join forces with President Assad in face of Islamic State
- 3 Mother fed her daughter tapeworms to make her skinny for pageant
- 4 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 5 Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
Jeremy Clarkson 'sees no problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
Lucy, film review: Scarlett Johansson will blow your mind in Luc Besson's complex thriller
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw
Miley Cyrus concert banned on morality grounds in the Dominican Republic
The Hateful Eight trailer: Teaser for Quentin Tarantino film leaks early
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile