BWW Review: Dionne Warwick at the Cabot Theatre: Timeless After All These Years
Dionne Warwick at the Cabot Theatre
Dionne Warwick with Cheyenne Elliott (vocals), Conductor John Rob Shrock (piano) and David Elliott (drums), Renato Braz (percussion), Danny Demorales (bass guitar), and William Hunter (keyboard), on Friday, June 28, 2019, at The Cabot Theatre, 286 Cabot Street, Beverly, MA; Tickets 978-927-3100 or www.ticketmaster.com/the-cabot-tickets-beverly/venue/9247
A year shy of its 100th birthday, the Cabot Theatre in Beverly, a North Shore treasure for the performing arts, presented multiple Grammy Award-winning recording artist Dionne Warwick in concert before a sold-out house on Friday night. Now in the sixth decade of her singing career, Warwick and her virtuosic five-piece band played hit after hit after hit, each one of them a reminder to the devoted audience of the breadth of her discography and the reasons for her incredible longevity and staying power.
It was apparent that this audience needed little reminding as they were quick to accept Warwick's invitation to sing along with her, intending that everyone should have as good a time as the people on the stage. The problem with that was not always being able to hear the star above the din, especially in the early numbers when Warwick's voice seemed not yet warmed up. (When she spoke between songs, it was nearly impossible to make out what she was saying.) However, she hit her stride in the midst of a select medley of movie songs she made famous and the rest of the program had great energy.
When Warwick strode onto the stage, she was welcomed with a resounding standing ovation before breaking out with a string of Burt Bacharach/Hal David beauties. Her setlist comprised nearly 50% of the composer's songs, their professional relationship putting them both front and center on the airwaves in their heyday. "Walk on By," "Anyone Who Had a Heart," "You'll Never Get to Heaven," "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," and "Message to Michael" pried open the door to the memory vault, and they cascaded out on the familiar strains of "This Girl's in Love With You." The opening set concluded with "I Say a Little Prayer," a vibrant number updated with a Latin flavor featuring a duet with her drummer (and eldest son), David Elliott, who inherited his mother's vocal DNA.
Her so-called "quasi-movie medley" (because there are too many to include them all) brought us back to the pre-CGI days with blockbusters like "(Theme from) Valley of the Dolls," "The Look of Love" (from Casino Royale), and, one of my personal favorites, "Alfie," interpreted with an attitude of imparting some insight and wisdom to the title character. Things heated up with "Aquarela do Brasil" as Warwick displayed her love for all things Brazil, her adopted second home, and even threw in some nifty salsa-like dance moves. The high energy carried over into "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" which gave the individual spotlight to each of the band members: Renato Braz (percussion), Danny Demorales (bass guitar), William Hunter (keyboard), and John Rob Shrock (conductor/piano).
The bright lighting was dimmed and enhanced by purple spots to change the mood as Warwick sat on the stool next to the piano for her 1971 Grammy-winning hit, "I'll Never Love This Way Again," and she nailed it. Although the concert was far from over, that turned out to be her solo grand finale before introducing her granddaughter (David's daughter), Cheyenne Elliott, who joined her on a pair of songs written by the drummer ("Love Will Find a Way," "Let There Be Love"). They also harmonized on the penultimate number, "What the World Needs Now is Love," and again invited the audience to participate. It was a beautiful rendition that felt profoundly sad to me in 2019, more an emotional entreaty to save the planet than the 1965 lilting pop song with its veiled anti-war message.
There were a few tempo changes, some alterations of notes to accommodate her slightly diminished range, and sustains were truncated, but none of that could take away from the tone and characteristics that define Warwick's singular voice. She put on a polished show without being showy, displaying a down to earth charisma and appreciation for being able to do what she does. A big part of that is sharing a genuine affection with her audience and Warwick's closing number summed it up on both sides of the footlights: "That's What Friends Are For."