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Review: Dionne Warwick performs live in Cambridge





Billed as the ‘She's Back: One Last Time’ tour, this giant of American popular culture treated her Cambridge fans to some of her biggest hits, which include Walk on By, Anyone Who Had a Heart, I Say a Little Prayer and Heartbreaker, on Thursday, June 9.

Dionne Warwick at Cambridge Corn Exchange, June 9, 2022. Picture: Maria Escobedo
Dionne Warwick at Cambridge Corn Exchange, June 9, 2022. Picture: Maria Escobedo

Opening the show was West End star Rachel John, who released her debut album, From My Lips to God’s Ear, in April. She has an amazing voice and treated the audience to a selection of well-known classics and songs she’d written herself - the most notable of which was the excellent Fool’s Gold.

I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from Rachel, who played Angelica Schuyler in the original West End cast of Hamilton, in the months and years to come.

Backed by a pianist, bass player, Brazilian percussionist and drummer (her eldest son, David Elliott) - as well as a large string ensemble - the musical legend that is Dionne Warwick emerged from the shadows dressed in black with a gold shawl draped around her.

Dionne Warwick at Cambridge Corn Exchange, June 9, 2022. Picture: Maria Escobedo
Dionne Warwick at Cambridge Corn Exchange, June 9, 2022. Picture: Maria Escobedo

She was moving noticeably slowly, but unaided, revealing that the reason for her walking “gingerly” was that she’d recently undergone surgery on her leg and was out touring against her doctor’s advice. “Walking or standing for long periods of time are not my strong suit at this point,” noted Ms Warwick from the stool on which she sat throughout much of the performance.

The first song of the set was a shortened version of Welcome to My World. This was followed by one of her best-known tunes, the timeless Walk on By. Then came Anyone Who Had a Heart, which sounded as lovely as ever.

Early on, the singer did seem to struggle a little with some of the higher notes but eased into it more as the evening went on, and seeing this soul icon perform in the flesh was privilege enough in itself.

She noted how she’d changed I Say a Little Prayer to “bring it into the 21st century” which I must admit filled me with dread as I’m usually left disappointed, to say the least, by modern reworkings of classic songs. But this one worked well as Dionne delivered it as an emotive duet with her son, David.

Dionne Warwick at Cambridge Corn Exchange, June 9, 2022. Picture: Maria Escobedo
Dionne Warwick at Cambridge Corn Exchange, June 9, 2022. Picture: Maria Escobedo

The infectious Latin groove of Aquarela do Brasil was dedicated to Brazil, the country that has become her “second home”, and this was followed by a delightful ‘Brazilianised’ version of Do You Know the Way to San Jose?, which boasted some wonderful percussion.

Heartbreaker received a huge cheer. “Oh, you know this one?” joked Ms Warwick, leaving the audience to sing the chorus - and sing it we did, most emphatically.

The star spoke of recent events in her homeland, including mass shootings (“I just can't understand it, it needs to stop”) and how she enjoyed getting to know herself - and her house - again during lockdown.

Just as we had on Heartbreaker, the audience enthusiastically sang the chorus to the USA for Africa charity song, We Are the World, which Dionne featured on, of course, alongside the likes of Michael Jackson, Kenny Rogers and Diana Ross, back in 1985.

Dionne Warwick at Cambridge Corn Exchange, June 9, 2022. Picture: Maria Escobedo
Dionne Warwick at Cambridge Corn Exchange, June 9, 2022. Picture: Maria Escobedo

When it came to say goodbye, the seasoned and very humble entertainer said pensively: “There's nothing ‘good’ about goodbye, nothing ‘fair’ about farewell, so I’ll just say ‘until next time’.” I really hope they’ll be a next time, despite what it said on the ticket.

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