Sunday, November 6, 2016

Dionne Warwick

Dionne Warwick has one of the most unique and distinctive voices in pop music history ... I can honestly say that I've never heard anyone else who sounds anything quite like her.

She has been delivering the goods for over fifty years now ... and during that time has placed an incredible 31 Top 40 Hits on the Billboard Pop Singles Chart.

Many of these (36 total chart hits in all) have come from the pen of Burt Bacharach, including 34 written with Hal David and two written with Carole Bayer Sager.

Dionne was the voice chosen to deliver their message (to Michael and to the rest of the world) so it was a real pleasure to FINALLY see her perform in concert Friday Night at The Arcada Theatre.   

She kicked the show off with a walk down memory lane, performing a lengthy medley of hits, some featuring just a verse or two and others encompassing the whole song. (These included early hits like "Walk On By", "Anyone Who Had A Heart", "Reach Out For Me", "Message To Michael" on through late '60's gems like "I'll Never Fall In Love Again", which just may be the most clever set of lyrics every written by Hal David.)

Dionne was accompanied by a sparse quartet ... a pianist, a bassist, a drummer and a percussionist ... no orchestration, no keyboard synthesized strings or horns, no back-up singers (other than the audience from time to time) ... giving the show almost a jazz club-type feel.  Dionne carried the entire show on her own (and she never even took so much as a sip of water while doing so.)

And she makes it all seem so natural and effortless ... that voice just comes out and hit after hit after hit appear ... "Alfie", "I'll Never Love This Way Again", "This Girl's In Love With You", "What The World Needs Now Is Love" and the show closer, "That's What Friends Are For" ... an incredibly impressive array of music.

She did reworkings of two other big '60's hits, "I Say A Little Prayer" and "Do You Know The Way To San Jose", to give them a more contemporary (and perhaps Brazilian) feel.  (She rerecorded both of these tracks recently as duets)
"Do You Know The Way To San Jose" worked a little better in this new arrangement (so we'll feature the original "hit" version of "I Say A Little Prayer" today.)

She was soft spoken for most of the night (which made it sometimes a little bit difficult to hear when she was speaking to the audience.)  Did she play it safe on a couple of notes?  Yes ... but overall her performance was excellent and there were times (especially on "I'll Never Love This Way Again") where her voice was just booming.

She was elegantly dressed and (other than a moment where she reprimanded an audience member for videotaping a portion of the concert, something we were all instructed NOT to do before the show began) completely professional in manner, coming across as a well-seasoned performer.

Dionne's career has not gone unscathed ... over the years, there've been a ton of "psychic friends" jokes, a well publicized marijuana bust, and an embarrassing diva spot on Donald Trump's "The Apprentice" ... but there is no denying her incredible contribution to the musical landscape of the past five decades.

And don't pigeon-hole her for a second as being successful only because of the incredible catalog of music provided to her by Hal David and Burt Bacharach ... 

This may have launched and sustained her career throughout the '60's, but she has come back numerous times since then with a #1 Duet with The Spinners ("Then Came You", 1974), a Barry Manilow-produced album that spawned the Top 20 Hits "I'll Never Fall In Love Again" and "Deja Vu", a Top Ten single, courtesy of The Bee Gees ("Heartbreaker", 1983) and yet another chart-topper when she teamed with her "friends" Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder for "That's What Friends Are For", a reunion of sorts, on a song written by Burt Bacharach (with his new partner Carole Bayer Sager) in 1985.

Concert Highlights:  
"I'll Never Fall In Love Again"  (perhaps the most fun she had all night ... even Dionne couldn't help but smile at the playful lyrics!)

"I'll Never Love This Way Again" (a very powerful performance of a song that isn't one of my favorites)

"Walk On By" (the show opener)

"Anyone Who Had A Heart"

"Message To Michael"

"Alfie" (although I may have enjoyed it more without the extended, drawn-out pacing of the lyrics)

"This Girl's In Love With You" 

"What The World Needs Now Is Love" (a fun audience sing-along that set up the "That's What Friends Are For" finale)    

Concert Lowlights (although I have to admit that some of these were accompanied by a nice touch of humor):  
Criticizing the audience for lackluster applause when she introduced the members of her band ... she stopped the show and called the response "completely unacceptable" ... and then started over to far more enthusiastic applause 

Calling out a fan for video taping and then demanding that he turn the device off and put it away, holding up the show until he did so  (Again, in all fairness, an announcement was made prior to the show that there was to be no videotaping during the concert ... and Dionne's point was well taken in that fans then go and post this stuff on YouTube and it doesn't fairly and accurately present the show as it happened, which then causes the artist to suffer by a poor representation of what really went on that night)

Singing a couple of lines from her 1980 hit "Deja Vu" when asked by an audience member to do the song ... and then explaining that everyone has their own favorites that they would like to hear performed and she can't possibly do them all ... "I get letters all the time from fans asking me to do this one or that one ... songs I haven't even thought about in a thousand years" ... finally explaining, "You know, we DO have a prepared show tonight."

An extended spiel about her "home away from home", Brazil ... I swear, at one point I almost felt as if she had a side job working for the Department of Tourism and was getting some type of commission / kick-back for every fan she could convince to buy an airline ticket!

Leaving out her well-loved Top 20 Hits like "Deja Vu", "Heartbreaker", "Theme from 'Valley Of The Dolls'", "Promises Promises", "Then Came You" and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" ... although I suspect some of these were omitted simply because they couldn't accurately be reproduced with the band she had behind her.

Cutting the show at EXACTLY an hour ... to the minute ... and then not coming out to do an encore ... I swear, this was the earliest I've EVER gotten out of The Arcada Theatre!!!  (lol)  And this after starting the show some 21 minutes late.  I saw Dr. Demento there the week before and he started a full 45 minutes earlier and performed till damn near 10:00 ... and he didn't have ANY hits!!! (lol)  By the time the house lights came on, we were done and out the door at 9:23 on a Friday Night after Dionne's concert.

Overall rating (on a scale of 1 - 10):               7

Very special thanks to Lou Bilotti for all these awesome photos

(deep breath)
You're not going to find too many extensive catalogs like this one ... Warwick was virtually never off the charts between 1963 and 1987!   

1963 - Don't Make Me Over (#21)
1964 - Anyone Who Had A Heart (#8)
1964 - Walk On By (#6)
1964 - You'll Never Get To Heaven (#34)
(We saw The Stylistics perform this one a few weeks ago ... and they paid tribute to Dionne when doing so)
1964 - Reach Out For Me (#20)
1965 - Are You There With Another Girl (#39)
1966 - Message To Michael (#8)
1966 - Trains And Boats And Planes (#22)
1966 - I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself (#26)
1967 - Another Night (#49)
1967 - Alfie (#15)
1967 - The Windows Of The World (#32)
1967 - I Say A Little Prayer (#4)     
1968 - Theme from "Valley Of The Dolls" (#2)
1968 - Do You Know The Way To San Jose  (#10)
1968 - Who Is Gonna Love Me?  (#33)
1968 - Promises Promises  (#19)
1969 - This Girl's In Love With You  (#7)
1969 - The April Fools  (#37)
1969 - Odds And Ends  (#43)
1969 - You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling  (#16)
1970 - I'll Never Fall In Love Again (#6)
1970 - Let Me Go To Him  (#32)
1970 - Paper Mache  (#43)
1970 - Make It Easy On Yourself  (#37)
1971 - The Green Grass Starts To Grow  (#43)
1974 - Then Came You (with The Spinners)  #1
1979 - I'll Never Love This Way Again  (#5)
1980 - Deja Vu  (#15)
1980 - No Night So Long  (#23)
1982 - Friends In Love (with Johnny Mathis)  #38
1983 - Heartbreaker  (#10)
1983 - Take The Short Way Home  (#41)
1983 - How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye (with Luther Vandross)  #27
1986 - That's What Friends Are For  (with Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder)  #1
1987 - Love Power (with Jeffrey Osborne)  #12

Dionne also cut the original hit version of "Always Something There To Remind Me", a bigger hit here in Chicago than its national showing of #65
She recorded "Close To You" as a B-Side in 1965, five years before The Carpenters had a #1 Hit with the song
What The World Needs Now Is Love - Dionne recorded an all-star hip-hop version in 1998 with Big Daddy Kane, Bobby Brown, Horace Brown, Mike City, Coolio, Flesh-n-Bone, Mic Geronimo, Tony Grant, Ray J, Mechalie Jamison, Kurupt, Royal Flush, Tyrese and Veronica - she cut a solo version in 1966 and also recorded "Wishin' And Hopin'" in 1963 before Dusty Springfield had a big hit with the song a year later

This one's for the girl who didn't get to hear it Friday Night.  (Hey, I wanted to hear it, too ... and I'm all that much more surprised she didn't do it because I believe it is also one of Dionne's favorites as well!)