Star-Bulletin Features

Monday, May 10, 1999

Warwick wows
’em at Shell

By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin


CLASS. Dionne Warwick had it at the Waikiki Shell on Saturday from the moment she walked on to the stage without a formal introduction. That was a nice touch. Real talent needs no hype.

In the hour that followed, she made the stage her home. She could have hardly appeared more at ease if she'd been entertaining for a few friends in her living room. Her 65-minute set was a delight.

And, although her first hit charted when John F. Kennedy was in the White House, she sang as beautifully as ever. Honolulu has seen plenty of "oldies acts" come here coasting on ancient accomplishments and the uncritical acceptance of sentimental aging fans. Warwick sang with glorious clarity and presence.

Warwick didn't disappoint her fans by cramming her hits together in a hasty medley. She devoted more than 30 minutes to the exquisite Burt Bacharach-Hal David creations she first interpreted so perfectly in the '60s, and sang most of them full length. From "Don't Make Me Over" and "Walk On By" to "Alfie" and "I'll Never Fall In Love Again," it was a memorable and romantic journey.

One or two songs were reworked a bit, and there were a few surprises. A couple of beautiful songs that barely charted were included, while some that hit higher on the Hot 100 were omitted -- "Reach Out For Me" and "Are You There (With Another Girl)" among them.

"Heartbreaker," one of her most powerful hits of the '80s was also missing from the program. The applause that greeted "I'll Never Love This Way Again" was proof enough that fans of her '80s work were well represented in the crowd.

Warwick added variety by stepping away from her signature material. She opened with a winning rendition of "Night and Day," plugged Brazil as one of her favorite places while introducing a Brazilian interlude, and previewed her current musical project.

Warwick informed the crowd that her new album, "Dionne Sings Dionne," is the first of three that revisit her old hits with alternative modern arrangements. The sample on Saturday was "Do You Know The Way to San Jose?" refurbished with a dancer-friendly Latin beat. It went over well.

Warwick began recording when producers routinely used live orchestras so it isn't surprising that she and her sextet meshed well with Matt Catingub and the Honolulu Symphony. Orchestral arrangements captured the spirit of the songs quite well, although "Anyone Who Had A Heart" lacked the driving emotion of Warwick's definitive 1963 performance.

"That's What Friends Are For" closed the show.

Hoku Award-winner Danny Couch had less time than he deserved as the local opening act but made the most of it. The highlight of his 25-minute set was "These Islands," the original that became a theme for the 1998 Miss Universe Pageant.

Couch went back to 1983 and his solo debut album for "Ah, My Hawaii," and got the audience involved in a singalong. "Waikiki," "Quando Quando Quando" and "I Believe I Can Fly" tapped other facets of his repertoire before time ran out.

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