Live Review: Dionne Warwick teaches us all about love at her greatest hits concert in Sydney

Dionne Warwick knows the way to your heart. This glorious singer has been the voice and occasionally the muse for some of the world’s greatest songs. Whether it’s falling in and out of love, the fact is that in her concerts and albums, Dionne shows us that this emotion is all that you need. This lovely lady captures this feeling and so much more in her nostalgia-soaked, hit-filled show.

Annie Z opened the proceedings with a set of mostly stripped-back covers. She played keys and was accompanied by a saxophonist. Her songs had a gentle sway with “Purple Rain” proving to be a fine ballad. Z’s own composition, “Smiling at the Sun” was enjoyable, but the audience were far more enraptured by tracks like “At Last” and “Kiss from a Rose.”

Dionne Warwick should be named “Queen Dee” because the Grammy award-winner is absolutely mesmerizing. Her voice has changed a little through the six decades she has spent in the music business. But it is still as smooth and rich as butter and commands you to sit up and listen.

Warwick comes from a family of singers. Her late sister, Dee Dee has had some hits while her aunt and niece are Cissy and Whitney Houston, respectively. Warwick is keeping things in the family with her gorgeous show. Her eldest son, David Elliott plays the drums in her band while her granddaughter, Cheyenne Elliott sings some duets. The song, “Love Will Find A Way” was co-written by David and originally recorded by Dionne and Whitney.

There are moments in Warwick’s show where you feel like you’re invited into her house. The vibe is relaxed and intimate and Warwick is a gracious host. She’s dressed in sequins and sparkles and some fetching silk slippers. She encourages the audience to sing along when they know the words. Most people recognise the music and do so, even if their voices fail to have the same melodic qualities as the night’s star.

Warwick had promised some old, new, familiar and unfamiliar songs. She delivered on all of these counts with her cuts of: soul, R&B, pop and rock. The stage set was muted, just the band in black tie and Warwick perched on a stool. She chatted between songs and offered some nice anecdotes. The bells and whistles were saved for the music itself, and it goes without saying that that stuff positively glowed.

“Heartbreaker” written by our very own Bee Gees was a delicious slice of pop. “I Say A Little Prayer” – where David accompanied his mother on vocals – was spine-tingling in its poignancy. It was a very different feeling to the epic, bossa nova jam of “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” and the fun of “Aquarela do Brasil.”

The band are a talented bunch of artists. Ronato Pereira offered wonderful rhythms on percussion, Danny Demorales some funky basslines and Todd Hunter the sparkly keys. John Robert Shrock conducted and also played some killer piano. These standards had a pure, timeless quality and Warwick brings so much depth, experience and emotion to her back catalogue. This means that when you hear “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” or the sentimentality of “Alfie” you never question it; you only believe it and feel this raw emotion through every pore of your body.

Cheyenne Elliott first began singing as a 9-year-old baby. Now grown up, she looks poised and composed while supporting her Grammy in some duets, including “What the World Needs Now Is Love.” Her single, “Let There Be Love” felt a little indulgent. The audience probably would have preferred hearing another Dionne Warwick tune in its place. The finale, “That’s What Friends Are For” was some twinkly-eyed goodness that summed up the spirit behind what this show was all about.

Dionne Warwick is looking a little frail these days. But audiences can often forget she’s 77 years old because her voice shows no signs of slowing down. Her 20-song set was like a great big ball of magic full of pizazz and charm. Warwick’s concert is as wonderful and comforting as a tender embrace because she proves that love is still the answer.

FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Dionne Warwick performed at The Star in Sydney on Thursday, 8th November.

Natalie Salvo

My writing portfolio can be found at: https://nataliesalvo.wordpress.com/