Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ronnie Spector: Best Christmas Ever Concert Review

Pssst ... let me let you in on a little secret. The first time I saw Veronica Bennett on our old 16 inch black and white TV, I did what any testosterone driven 14 years old kid would do -  and I did it furiously. Get the point?  

A young Ronnie Spector oozed sexuality, while her vocals packed overwhelming passion combined with a unique vibe of vulnerability. This "Bad Girl of Rock 'n Roll" was one hot young woman.  

Sure, I dug the Supremes. Their body of work cannot be disputed. But the Berry Gordy creation always struck me as being just too damn homogenized for their own good. I mean can you really compare Diana Ross warbling "Baby Love" to the Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes sizzling "Do I Love You?" ... or Ronnie's plaintiff cry for love in "Walking in the Rain?"  

Now, push the hands ahead about 40 years. The Ronnie Spector Christmas Show turned up at promoter Ron Onesti's Arcada Theater Sunday night.  Yes, Ronnie gave lip service to handful of Christmas tunes, but that was something of a red herring. Really, who wants to hear Ronnie sing about reindeer when she can remind you that the Ronettes originally performed "I Can Hear Music", a song that later became a minor hit for the Beach Boys.  

Ronnie almost brought me to tears with her superb cover of the Carpenters' underrated "Yesterday Once More" ("Every Sha La La La") and the Students' "So Young."   "Young", a cut on an early Beach Boys, album serves as further evidence that a youthful Brian Wilson was clearly enamored by doo wop.  

There was one significant let down ... Ronnie got very little help from her band or backup singers. Quite frankly, I've seen wooden Indians with more musical punch and on-stage presence. Can you say "Going Through the Motions"?  In particular, the band's "bridges" failed to give you any feeling of the power and dynamic of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound.  

Ronnie Spector will be 72 this summer. She's at an age where most women are playing scrabble or doting on grand children. Not this kid.  Ronnie, the diminutive chick from New York's Spanish Harlem, who appears, shall we say, to have had several surgical procedures (no big deal ... I've had my neck, eyes and hair "boosted") still has a remarkably accentuated presence of relevancy. In other words, she's living proof that a septuagenarian can still be sexy.  

Spector began the set in a flashy, but stylish, blue-green top before donning a Santa Claus coat with fur trim for her first encore. She closed her brief 75 minute set in a black top that had me wondering just how much additional musical excellence Ronnie could have added to her scorecard had she not been essentially imprisoned by the iron grip of Phil Spector.  I loved seeing Ronnie growl on Ray Charles' legendary "What'd I Say" while also serving up an excellent musical tribute to Amy Winehouse.    

Once again, a round of applause for Ron Onesti for bringing in another evening of 24 karat gold memories. It was kick to see my old LOOP buddy and current WGN host Wendy Snyder as the house lights went up. Wendy admitted she was in tears throughout the show.  Ronnie has that kind of "affect." Her vocals are so singularly hers and hers alone, that you can't help but feel she's actually singing just to you.  

Ms. Spector, retirement is out of the question. You have too many shows left, too many audiences to please … but have your manager go to work on your supporting cast.    

Chet Coppock
Author:  Chet Coppock - Laying It On The Line
Rating 3.5 out of 4 Stars.