Sunday, August 3, 2003

Dionne Warwick fills Music Hall with timeless hits

Concert review

By Denise Johnson
Enquirer contributor

You know youíre getting up there when you have to explain to the younginís that Luther Vandross was not the first to record "A House Is Not a Home." Fortunately, there were enough grown folks in the house to appreciate the timelessness of entertainment veteran Dionne Warwick as the headliner for this yearís edition of Crown Jewels of Jazz.

A near capacity audience filled the Music Hall Ballroom Saturday night for the conclusion of The Hood Is Bigger Than You Think Tour, which also serves as a fundraiser for Learning Through Arts, an arts education/enrichment organization.

Celebrating four decades in show business, Warwick looked as ageless as her voice sound. Pristine pipes and a classy, sassy stage persona endeared her to many in the audience that grew up along with her music (and more than willing to be back-up singers for her 90-minute set).

With a sextet that included music director Kathy Rubbicco on piano, Warwick opened with "Close to You," a tune made popular in the 70ís by the Carpenters, before launching into the song that marked her debut on the charts in 1963, "Donít Make Me Over."

Warwick exudes a comforting warmth and familiarity that mirrors her material. Patrons were more than willing to stroll down memory lane as they sang along with a medley that included "Walk On By," "Anyone Who Had a Heart," "Never Get to Heaven," "Iíll Never Fall in Love Again" and the aforementioned "A House is Not a Home."

Ms. Warwick has a few surprises up her sleeve. After concluding the medley with "Message to Michael," "This Girlís In Love With You" and "I Say A Little Prayer for You," she performed a duet with her drummer/son David Elliott on Elton Johnís "Do You Know What I Mean."

The enduring essence of the songs is a tribute to both composer and artist; all transcend styles and trends with substance. Her treatment of the theme from the film Valley of the Dolls, "Alfie" provided a poignant showcase for Warwickís unique gift of interpretation.

She again shifted gears into bossa nova groove vis a vis "Jobim" and "Brasil" before inquiring "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?"

Warwick closed with "Iíll Never Love This Way Again" and What the World Needs Now." She did another duet with her son for "Thatís What Friends Are For" before leaving the bandstand.

Hostess with the mostest and opener Kathy Wade got some good help from her friends that made up the Khalid Moss Quartet. The ever ebullient hometown diva did more than warm up the room.

She got the ballroom heated with her UPtempo version of "Bye, bye, Blackbird." "Here Comes That Rainy Day" featured some tasty pickings from Aurell Rayís guitar.

Things got real steamy, particularly when Wade turned "Fever" into a five-alarm fire ñ she can raise funds and temperatures, too!

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