The incomparable Dionne Warwick came to town on Saturday, April 21, 2012, to headline the 2012 Spring Gala concert at Strathmore. She was a huge, huge hit. Fifty years into her amazingly successful career, she is awe inspiring and confident in her own sophisticated and pure style. Her unmistakable voice is lower, but in many ways richer than it has ever been. The timing and that husky yet clear sound is right there, and she is as elegant as ever.
Backed by a six piece group that included piano and two keyboards simulating a full orchestral sound, Warwick opened the show with “Walk on By” and “Anyone Who Had a Heart” before launching into a medley of the Burt Bacharach and Hal David songs that have defined her career and theirs … “Never Get To Heaven,” “What do You Get When You Fall in Love,” “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” “Message to Michael,” and “This Girl’s in Love.” What was not to love?
There was no up and down to the concert. Things only got better, and things really got better when she reminded all that nobody will ever sing “Alfie” like she did and like she still can.
A surprise guest of the evening came in the form of Dionne’s oldest son, David Elliot, an LA cop with a beautiful tenor voice worthy of his own solo career. With a mother-son rapport that the audience clearly loved witnessing, the two launched into a well rehearsed new arrangement of Warwick’s hit “I Say a Little Prayer.” It was delightful, and it was touching to see the pleased look on the face of a very protective Dionne as the audience immediately embraced her son’s talent.
Next, Dionne launched into what would be the biggest moment of the night, a simply beautiful arrangement of “I Know I’ll Never Love This Way Again.” The song just kept modulating and building, with Dionne owning every note, proving beyond any shadow of a doubt at every turn why she is the legend that she is. She was rewarded with a standing ovation that began long before the last notes sounded.
Dionne Warwick is the cousin of Whitney Houston, and they shared a very close family and professional relationship. It was a poignant moment when Warwick, almost unable to speak, shared that she had recently received a call from Lonnie Bunch, the founding director of the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture, asking if she and Whitney’s family would like for Whitney’s life and achievements to be presented in an exhibit at the museum. Dionne said that she literally screamed the family’s approval. With her sorrow and her joy so genuinely evident, it was a touching moment and a heart searing reminder to all that superstar performers are very real people with very real family.
Dionne has lived a large part of her life in Brazil, a country that she obviously enjoys and loves. It was such a treat to hear her share a set that included the beautiful rhythms and sounds of this country, and it was also an opportunity for her to show the depth and range of her talents. It was truly wonderful to see her set free and having so much fun. Warwick is a musician among musicians, and she proved it right here.
With her son at her side, Warwick closed out the evening with a memorable performance of “That’s What Friends Are For.” They sang their hearts out, and the audience loved seeing them play with each other as they showcased their improvisational gifts and shared their beautiful voices with a crowd that simply loved them to pieces.
Saturday, April 21, 2012, was a glorious night for music, arts, education, and children, as a grateful and generous community arrived in throngs to support the wondrous treasure that is The Music Center at Strathmore. They were young and young at heart, rich in wealth and rich in spirit, political and apolitical, in business, out of business, working, and retired. They came to have fun. They came to see and hear 5-time Grammy winning artist Dionne Warwick headline an incredible gala concert. Most of all, however, they came to do their part in assuring that every single child in Montgomery County will have an opportunity to explore the arts and to experience a live music concert.
Strathmore exists because people dared to dream, believed in the dream, and worked together to make the dream reality. The dream and the reality have always included huge education components, so much so that upon entering the lobby of the magnificent Strathmore structure the first thing one sees is the Education Center.
Reviews seldom include words of thanks, but words of thanks are the only words that seem appropriate for what took place at the Music Center at Strathmore on April 21, 2012. Thank you, Dionne. Thank you, Strathmore. Thank you, Montgomery County, and thank you to every single person who made this night the huge success that it was. Consider this a well-deserved standing ovation.
The Music Center at Strathmore
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The Music Center at Strathmore
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North Bethesda, MD 20852-3385
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