Music review: Dionne Warwick, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Part live performance, part in-conversation event, this was a 360 degree view of a remarkable career, writes David Pollock

Dionne Warwick, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall ***

This was less a concert, more a victory lap after the race has been successfully run. As the foyer’s promotional posters teased, Dionne Warwick would be singing songs, but much of this event would be taken up by film and in-conversation material looking back over her career. That meant there was a lot to get through, even in three hours.

The 83-year-old New Jersey native made her name as a pioneer of crossover soul-pop, but her career’s so long that footage could be shown of her as a fresh-faced, 21-year-old young woman singing in her local choir. The black-and-white footage was grainy and out-of-time, yet here Warwick was on stage, persevering with vibrant energy.

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Dionne Warwick PIC: Calum BuchanDionne Warwick PIC: Calum Buchan
Dionne Warwick PIC: Calum Buchan

The first song she performed with her three-piece band was Don’t Make Me Over, also the title of the show, which she explained was written for her by frequent collaborator Hal David (alongside Burt Bacharach) after she upbraided him with the words for promising her a song and giving it to someone else.

After this, her friend Dave Wooley conducted a conversational, talk show-style interview about her life – her upbringing around church song, her exploits within the industry, her double marriage to and double divorce from drummer William Elliott and her pioneering AIDS activism.

Elton John offered frank filmed testimonial about the latter, while Smokey Robinson, Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, Bill Clinton, her sister Cissy Houston and (through wildly-received archive footage) her niece Whitney Houston all appeared. The segment where Snoop Dogg recalled Warwick telling off a group of gangster rappers for their misogynist language in her living room was hilarious.

Of course, the relaxed format was necessary because, well, Warwick is 83, and 90 minutes of singing is tough at any age. Hearing her sing I Say a Little Prayer (including jokey back-and-forth with her drummer son David), though, then a sublime, strong-voiced half-hour closing procession through Walk On By, Anyone Who Had a Heart, Alfie, Heartbreaker, What the World Needs Now and That's What Friends Are For more than justified her appearance.