On the penultimate night of One Last Time, her UK tour, to be in the presence of legendary musician Dionne Warwick was a real honour. With countless accolades to her name and a career spanning six decades, not only does she have one of the largest catalogues of any solo artist and vocals which have stood the test of time, she also has a dazzling personality to match. (If you’re not following Dionne on Twitter, you should do so immediately so you can read her hilarious and heart-warming “twotes”.) Cheeky and playful, she conveyed her love of music and performing, unperturbed by the demands of touring and recent ill-health.
Sometimes when an artist addresses their audience, the feeling is that you want them to hurry along and get back to the music. Not so here: the crowd hung onto her every word as she talked us through what she planned to sing that evening, introduced us to her band, and even spoke about global politics, expressing her contempt for Putin and gun violence in America. We were captivated by her presence, held in her capable hands. The singer made jokes, told stories, and teased her fellow musicians; call the show ‘an evening with Dionne’, much more than a perfunctory concert of greatest hits.
On the subject of hits, no stone was left unturned when it came to Warwick’s most well-known songs. Walk On By was out of the way early on, whilst Alfie, San José and Heartbreaker were performed near the end in quick succession. Highlights included I Say A Little Prayer, sung as a duet with her son (David Elliott, also her band’s drummer) and a performance of What The World Needs Now, complete with a comical attempt at audience participation. Spectators may not have been expecting a bongo solo at any point during the concert but that is what we got, plus a whole lot more.
The support act was Rachel John, whose powerful voice – she’s performed in multiple West End productions – established her as more of an equal than an understudy. The gospel singer was a real crowd-pleaser, singing a number of covers by artists such as Stevie Wonder, Emily Sandé and Randy Crawford as well as an original song from her debut album.
The whole evening had a real sense of occasion, of witnessing something special even, enhanced by the romantic stage lighting, the grand piano and a 14-piece string ensemble. The lack of any backing vocalists made the headline act’s performance all the more remarkable, and the overall effect was of being transported to the days of sophisticated, good-hearted entertainment, with an added sassiness unique to Miss Dionne Warwick alone.
St David’s Hall, Cardiff, Tue 28 June
words ROSANNA LEWIS photos JONATHAN HERRON
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