Dionne Warwick at Symphony Hall, May 31st, 2022.

Dionne Warwick is 81, and since I suspected this might be the last time I’ll see her on stage I splurged on great seats. She looked fantastic, hair all white, the cheekbones still sculpting the face as sharply as ever. But she could barely walk across the stage, and one could feel the effort it cost her to do so on her own. She had an operation on her leg a month ago and did the concert sitting down on a stool. She asked for it to be changed, which it wasn’t, and one could see her occasionally wince in pain. The voice is not what it was. She sang everything in a low register whilst still giving the impression that she marked all the key changes and note shifts on all her famous Bacharach-David songs: The enunciation remained supreme; the tone of the voice unique. But its power, precision, and versatility is gone: her voice is not the extraordinary instrument it was. Still it was a very moving evening. The audience was with her all the way, sang with her, occasionally *for* her. It seemed an extraordinary ritual; her pain, her extraordinary showmanship and control of the audience, touching this mass of people still and transmuting it all through that fantastic songbook into love, verbally expressed, and loudly. At the end, she said, ‘farewells aren’t fair and goodbyes aren’t good’ as she painfully hobbled off stage to waves and waves of applause, the audience on its feet and visibly moved. I was glad to be part of it.

José Arroyo

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