I was over the moon when I saw that Dionne Warwick was touring the UK – and especially pleased when I found out that she’d be performing at the Royal Albert Hall, the finest setting possible for a musician. In fact, it would be her tenth performance there – a fact she alluded to, humorously, during the concert.
I’ve been a fan of Dionne Warwick for as long as I can remember. The voice, the personality, the songs…what’s not to love? “Icon” is an over-used word, but is surely appropriate as regards this indomitable septuagenarian.
When Dionne did appear on stage (early!) she was greeted by rapturous applause by an audience ranging from the very young to the very well-preserved. Resplendent in gold, she announced, “We’ll be taking you from 1962, the year of my first recording, up to and through 2000.” Waiting for the applause to subside, she continued, “If any of the songs are familiar to you, we hope you’ll open your mouths and sing – and feel free to put your hands together”.
The atmosphere was already electric, and the sense of anticipation increased as Dionne, clearly thrilled to be here, beamed at us: “We want you to have as good a time out there as we’re going to have up here”.
By now, the applause was deafening. Undeterred, Dionne continued, “I’m not going to be talking much more…but you’re going to be sitting there a long time – so let’s begin!”
A perfect opening – and the two hours that followed were musical bliss, Dionne blithely ignoring the ‘interval’ prescribed by the RAH. On which subject I have to say: why would you intentionally break up a highly enjoyable concert with a ‘break’ no one needs or wants? Purely to make money in the bars, I imagine.
Rant over, and back to the music. Following a belting introduction – ‘Thank Heavens for Boys and Girls’ – Dionne moved on to some of the most well-known – and dramatic – songs from her oeuvre. ‘Don’t Make Me Over’ was followed by ‘Walk On By’, “aided” by some exuberant audience participation.
It’s easy to forget how many incredible hits Dionne has had and their subsequent impact upon the generations that followed. ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’, ‘You’ll Never Get to Heaven If You Break My Heart’, ‘Always Something There To Remind Me’, ‘Close To You’ and ‘I Say A Little Prayer’ were received rapturously, as were ‘Do You Know The Way To San Jose’, ‘I’ll Never Fall In Love Again’, ‘Make It Easy On Yourself’ and, of course, ‘Heartbreaker’ – the latter having been my first encounter with Dionne Warwick (I was an impressionable 10 years old when it was released).
By now, a sense of bliss had descended upon the majestic surroundings of this venerable venue: a feeling which only increased when Dionne announced, “I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of providing music for many films – and these are my favourites”. ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head’, ‘Arthur’s Theme (The Best That You Can Do)’, ‘The Look Of Love’ and ‘Alfie’; all were lapped up by a grinning audience.
Then, a more reflective moment: “This is a song written for me and my late, great cousin Whitney Houston”. You could have heard a pin drop. “This is my granddaughter, Cheyenne Elliott – and we’re going to perform ‘Love Will Find A Way’ for you”. You can imagine the reaction their duet received, 23-year-old Cheyenne effortlessly holding her own against her grandmother. And by the conclusion of their performances of ‘What The World Needs Now Is Love’ and ‘That’s What Friends Are For’, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Thank you, Royal Albert Hall, for another magical experience and for continuing to host icons (and I still have no qualms about using that word) such as Dionne Warwick. Tonight was an evening I shall never forget.