What: Hunger Project UK, Gala Concert,
Dionne Warwick and friends
Where: Apollo Victoria Theatre
When: 9th January 2011
If you’ve seen the film “Bucket List” you’ll remember that it was all about making a list of things to do before you die. I, on the other hand have my own bucket list, however this time it’s all about seeing artists before THEY die. When I was a teen I was a big fan of Queen, however I never got to see them live before Freddie died and regretted that ever since. As a result my own bucket list is about artists I made a vow to see before they die so I never have that regret again.
My own list has taken me to many gigs over the past ten years and I’ve “ticked off” many artists. Tonight was the turn of iconic Dionne Warwick. Ms Warwick ranks only second to Aretha Franklin as the most charted women on the US billboard with 56 tracks. In fact it was Dionne who first recorded and had a hit with “I say a little prayer” that most people now associate to Aretha.
Dionne Warwick will inevitably be associated with the songwriting of Burt Bacharach and Hal David and it was songs written by these two that Dionne drew on mostly tonight. Even though you may not of heard of Bacharach and David you will know their songs (or should be ashamed of yourself if you don’t!). Bacharach’s influence runs throughout pop history and a poster of Bacharach even appears prominently on Oasis’ album cover for “Definitely Maybe”
Anyway enough music history for now, back to tonight’s gig. Dionne’s voice isn’t as powerful as it once was but it now possesses a deeper late night jazz bar sound that adds warmth and emotion. Dionne’s performance feels like she’s letting you into her living room and her personal warmth comes across well. Tonight’s show was nearly three hours long and featured Dionne on stage for most of it. She gave us great renditions of her hit catalogue and left everybody humming famous melody lines throughout.
Dionne has now turned 70 and she has been performing for over 50 years. She must have sung those songs thousands of times yet still brings life and emotion to them. I can understand her wanting to shake things up every now and again. This whilst admirable brought my only complaint for the evening. In a duet with her eldest son David Elliot they murdered “I say a little prayer”, not with bad singing but in turning a beautiful melody and Bacharach rhythm into lift music with total disregard to the original. Warwick’s biggest hit “Walk on by” (covered by The Stranglers and Seal) was also given a make over and this also failed miserably in my eyes. So much so that it almost became unrecognisable. Artists note: mess with a classic at your peril.
Dionne Warwick describes herself as the duet queen and with good reason. Tonight she put that tag to good use by bringing in guest vocalists throughout her performance. We were treated to duets with Mica Paris, Natalie Cole, Elaine Paige OBE and most remarkably Tim Holder who is country director for The Hunger Project. The charity helps starving people not just by food aide but by providing opportunities for the poor to establish themselves and go onto self-sufficiency. Holder did a fine job, I can’t imagine any other charity concert organisers having the guts to get up on stage with a legend let alone do such a good job and that includes Bob Geldof!
Dionne did give up the stage on occasions for solo performances by the artists she duetted with as well as performances by The London Community Gospel Choir who showed how uplifting gospel can be with their version of “Love Train”. Tonight’s concert was is the Apollo Theatre in Victoria, normally home to the hit west end production “Wicked”. We were treated to a variety of arts performers including one of the songs from Wicked as well as Royal Ballet’s Steven McRae and Opera’s Simon Keenlyside. Tonight’s highlight for me came with Elaine Paige’s performance of “Don’t cry for me Argentina” from Evita and “Memory” from Cats. You can clearly see why Paige ruled the musical stage and still commands such respect. I was captivated by her performance, she had me hanging on every word and believing in the character she represented.