She walked towards centerstage like she owned it. She did – Dionne Warwick entered, conquered and owned the UB Gymnasium stage last Thursday. And once again it was proven that at the end of the day, it’s not about hitting those high notes, flashy costumes or fancy theatrics – it’s all about the music and the artist’s commitment to the craft.
Her Philippine concert tour schedule was a challenge – the Manila Hotel on July 20, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum the following day, in Davao on July 23, then zigzag her way up to Baguio on the eve of her July 25 concert in Baguio. Even the vocal chords of the much younger Per Sorensen, one half of the duo Fra Lippo Lippi, gave when he toured the country in 2011, struggling through his hour-long set in a concert brought to Baguio also by Waltrix Productions.
Warwick’s voice was hoarse by the time she stepped on the Baguio stage, but struggle the 72 year-old artist did not. As she said to her audience in her opening spiel, “whatever I’ve got to give, you’re gonna get it.” And get it we did, “it” being a world-class, once-in-a-lifetime performance by one of the "40 biggest hit makers of the entire rock era." She conquered that vocal challenge and performed her songs as if they were meant to be sung with that raspy voice.
Her performance was pure, honest. It was brimming with passion. She was onstage not to show off, most artists fall into that trap when in front of an audience. She was there to share a life-changing experience with her audience. That’s what art’s all about, and that’s what one gets from a true artist such as Dionne Warwick.
She sang her heart out – and connected with her audience individually. I could have sworn that she was singing “keep smiling, keep shining, knowing you can always count on me...” to me, personally. She did look me straight in the eye for a moment during the song, that’s when tears started filling my eyes. She told the story of each song with so much sincerity and heart. I believe it wouldn’t have mattered whether one was a seasoned Warwick fan or a teenager who had no clue as to who this towering figure of a woman on stage was – the performance was a deeply emotional, very intimate experience, it touched everyone. My son couldn’t help but say, “she’s the coolest human being I’ve ever seen on stage.” Or something to that effect. Coming from a 14-year old music buff whose usual musical inclination includes The Beatles, The Doors, XX and the Killers and who has seen Sting perform live, that means a lot.
Waltrix Productions head, Jen Manasala-Bautista, enabler of such world-class concerts in Baguio, shared with me what Warwick whispered into her ear after the performance – “I want to come back here.” I sure hope she does. I’m quite sure my son would save up to pay for his own ticket this time.