A cooler blend of culture

At 77, Dionne Warwick still has the gift of the gab

Dionne Warwick @2x

Just about every Sunday morning throughout the late ’70s, I’d be woken up from my cosy sleep-in to the sounds of veteran singers crooning from the stereo in the living room next door. Mum would be playing Perry Como, Dean Martin, or maybe one of the Neils – Sedaka or Diamond. Otherwise my elder sister Melina would spin something more contemporary and hip, like Fleetwood Mac, America, James Taylor, or Dionne Warwick.

It was the latter who was probably the nicest to wake up to, with Dionne’s ethereal vocals asking if I knew the way to San José, then suggesting for me to simply walk on by. Back in those days, as a seven/eight/nine-year-old, I’d ardently go to bed praying, so it was nice to wake up with someone else doing the praying for me.

Anyway, those memories are still marked in my mind, so when I was given the chance to sit up front at a recent Dionne Warwick performance in Perth, I jumped at the opportunity. Indeed, it was like being transported back to those mornings post-slumber, and felt like Dionne was in my own living room, waxing lyrically between crooning beautiful classics like San José, Walk On By, and of course, Say A Little Prayer.

So far as bucket lists go, I’ve ticked seeing Dionne Warwick twice. The first time was to check out a legend live. The second proved she still possesses the gift of the gab.

I’d met Dionne Warwick once before, and seen her perform live, but back then it was in a large auditorium setting. This time things were more personal, interactive even. With her unique vocal style, Warwick’s verses, choruses and melodies filled the intimate space of the Perth Riverside Theatre. This really was a seasoned performer hardly having to put much effort into her singing yet delivering an expert two-hour show. No digital music as backup, no fancy visuals to distract from the talent, and certainly no dicky dancers on stage.

So many hits sung. So many moments that brought me back to cooler, calmer, easier times. Indeed, even when Warwick kept singing the simplest of lines: that “what the world needs now is love, sweet love”, you couldn’t help seeing flashes of friendlier leaders of years gone by, brushing away images of the despicable despots of today.

But Warwick refused to play into politics, instead keeping the songs and dialogue simple; to the point. Sure, often her sentences (in speaking only, not singing) would end up in somewhat of a mumble and it seemed she’d forgotten what she was telling you for a moment, but then she’d pipe up with a knowing glint in her eye and you’d realise this woman is as witty, with it, and with wit, as she was decades ago.

So far as bucket lists go, I’ve ticked seeing Dionne Warwick twice. The first time was to check out a legend live. The second proved she still possesses the gift of the gab.

Antonino Tati

 

Dionne Warwick plays The Palais Theatre in Melbourne tonight Sunday 4 November; The Star Event Centre in Sydney on Thursday 8 November, and The Star Gold Coast Friday 9 November. Tickets are available through Frontier Touring as well as regular ticketing outlets.