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“Just Beautiful!” Dionne Warwick LIVE! at UCPAC

By Spotlight Central. Photos by Love Imagery

Music lovers are streaming into Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway, NJ this Friday, September 9, 2022 evening for a concert by the legendary singer and recording artist Dionne Warwick. Warwick is a six-time Grammy Award-winner who has performed on more than 75 charted hits and sold over 100 million records, many written by composer Burt Bacharach. Born and raised in the Garden State, Warwick received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019 and, in 2021, was nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Before tonight’s show begins, we take a moment to chat with Pat from Mountainside who recalls, “I’ve been a fan of Dionne Warwick since I was a little girl. When I saw she was performing here I said, “I just have to see her!’” Exclaiming, “I’m so excited, I can’t wait! I feel like a little kid right now!” Pat maintains, “All of her songs are wonderful, and I know the words to all of them,” before concluding, “Dionne Warwick is a living legend!”

Linda from Avenel tells us, “I’m really looking forward to hearing Dionne Warwick perform here at UCPAC tonight,” recalling, “I grew up not far from Rahway. I used to come to see movies here when I was a child.” Tom from Carteret confesses, “My first date was here in this theater when I was a teenager,” prior to adding, “I just love Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach — her voice and his music are just perfect together.”

Lastly, we chat with Bree from Union who reveals, “I’ve been dying to see Dionne Warwick for years but I never got the chance. I was even willing to travel to one of her shows, but when I learned she was going to be right here at UCPAC, I got tickets as soon as they went on sale.” Continuing, “I love Dionne Warwick! I have all of her albums,” Bree concludes by revealing, “I would tape her whenever she was on TV and I still watch those tapes, so I’m really excited to be here seeing her live for the very first time!”

Inside the historic UCPAC auditorium, the lights dim and the crowd applauds as pianist Todd Hunter, bassist Danny DeMorales, drummer David Elliot, and percussionist Renato Braz enter in black formal wear and take their places behind their instruments. As the musicians begin to play, Warwick, 81, takes the stage looking elegant in her long gown and sequined jacket. Audience members stand and cheer for this legend who graciously thanks the audience, obviously touched by their warm display of affection.

Announcing, “Come, let us be a part of your evening!” Warwick begins to perform her rendition of the Jim Reeves’ ballad, “Welcome to My World.”

Her unmistakable alto voice sounding sweet and strong, she sings in her crisp, elegant style, “Welcome to my world/So glad you walked on in,” expertly accompanied by the members of her top-notch band.

Explaining that she will be doing both old and new material tonight, Warwick takes a seat to announce, “We’ll take a short stroll down memory lane, so sit back, relax, and enjoy,” as she launches into her 1964 hit, “Walk on By.” Audience members bop their heads in time to the music as Warwick croons, “If you see me walking down the street/And I start to cry each time we meet,” before they join her in singing the nostalgic “Walk on by/Walk on by” chorus.

Moving on to a series of Burt Bacharach/Hal David hits, audience members whistle and cheer as she performs “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” “You’ll Never Get to Heaven If You Break My Heart,” and “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” where Warwick sings directly to the audience as if she’s talking to an old friend, the audience feeling the magic of her music and her one-of-a-kind vocal talent.

Tasty piano, drums, percussion, and bass accompany Warwick on elegant renditions of “Message to Michael” and “This Girl’s in Love with You” before Warwick announces, “This next song is very dear to my heart. I re-recorded it as a duet and my singing partner is here tonight. We hope you’ll enjoy this new version.” Here, she presents an upbeat and funky duet rendition of her 1967 hit, “I Say A Little Prayer,” featuring drummer David Elliot on vocals. The crowd cheers for Elliot’s soulful vocal performance filled with intricate runs and Warwick answers with her own soulful vocal runs much to the audience’s delight.

After revealing that Elliot is her eldest son, the crowd applauds and Warwick begins a slow, jazzy version of her 1967 hit, “Alfie.” Accompanied by Elliot playing with brushes on his drums, Warwick’s legato vocal is filled with rubato phrasing as she sings, “What’s it all about, Alfie?” At the conclusion, the audience responds with avid hoots, hollers, and cheers.

After talking about her 2006 duet with Celia Cruz, Warwick and Co. present an upbeat salsa interpretation of “Do You Know the Way to San José.” After singing the bouncy “Do you know the way to San José/I’ve been away so long/I may go wrong and lose my way” verse to Latin percussion, Warwick introduces a Todd Hunter jazz piano solo, a David Elliot/Renato Braz drum/percussion solo, and a funky Danny DeMorales bass solo before she scat sings at the end to enthusiastic applause.

One of the highlight numbers of the evening is Warwick’s rendition of her 1979 hit, “I’ll Never Love This Way Again.” Singing powerfully with style and feeling, Warwick cries, “I know I’ll never love this way again/ So I keep holdin’ on, before the good is gone,” gracefully moving her microphone as far away as she can while holding out the final note to enthusiastic whistles and cheers.

Warwick recalls, “We have all have been through an awful lot recently. It was two years that we were confined to our homes. Most people said, ‘I’m sick of this — I gotta get out of here!’ but I enjoyed every single minute of it! I got a chance to know me, and I did some soul searching and I found I kinda like me!” Continuing, “After that, the world seemed to turn upside down,” Warwick goes on to suggest, “There’s got to be a solution to this madness, and it’s simply called music.”

Here, Warwick performs her 1998 inspirational ballad, “If I Want To,” and follows up with USA for Africa’s 1985 charity single, “We Are the World.”

The entire audience sings along on the well-known “We are the world/We are the children” refrain before Warwick says, “One more time for me!” and the crowd sings for Dionne who smiles in response to their heartfelt performance.

Warwick follows up with the Bacharach/David composition, “What the World Needs Now,” her masterful voice singing high, low, and around the melody which is sung by the audience. To conclude tonight’s show, Warwick and Co. perform Dionne and Friends’ 1985 hit, “That’s What Friends are For.” With her graceful and warm vocal, Warwick croons, “Keep smiling keep shining/Knowing you can always count on me, for sure” as the audience joyfully sings along.

Standing and taking a bow for the cheering and applauding crowd, Warwick reflects, “I pray that God will continue to smile upon each and every one of you,” before concluding, “Until next time, goodbye.”

As audience members make their way out of the UCPAC auditorium, we chat with several concertgoers who share their thoughts on Dionne Warwick’s performance tonight. Whereas Carolyn from Staten Island remarks, “Dionne Warwick was just great!” Linda from Linden asserts, “Dionne Warwick was wonderful — just magnificent! What a show! It brought back memories of me as a child singing her songs into a hairbrush! Through her songs and stories, she explained how to love and live,” prior to concluding, “She showed her true beauty.”

Tara from Woodbridge insists, “Dionne Warwick was just lovely! She exudes joy, and she makes everyone around her feel wonderful!” Susan from Hoboken recalls, “I grew up listening to Dionne Warwick’s songs, and hearing her sing them live was such a treat — her performance was effortless! I wish more people today would listen to her music and its message of love and peace. It may be exactly ‘What the World Needs Now.’”

Lastly, we chat with Betty Jean from South Brunswick who declares, “Dionne Warwick was just amazing tonight! She never even stopped to have a drink of water or anything,” before concluding, “At 81, she sounded like she always has — just beautiful!”

To learn more about Dionne Warwick, please go to officialdionnewarwick.com. For information on future concerts at UCPAC — including Josh Turner on October 20, Little River Band on October 29, Black Violin on November 10, and Mandy Patinkin on February 18, 2023 — please click on ucpac.org.

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