St David’s Hall, Cardiff
When I was a kid, I saw an old clip of The Ronettes performing “Be My Baby”, I had never heard the song before and my eyes had never seen Ronnie Spector before. I was too young to have any real sexual stirrings, but I could feel the sexiness she oozed as she sang one of the greatest songs I would ever hear. A perfect combination of grace, innocence, sex smoldering from the 17 or so inch television. I had a project, my ambition became to see this person sing this song in the flesh, preferably to me, I guess I just presumed everybody else did as well.
As I look around the St David’s Hall, awaiting the arrival of Her, I sort of can’t really believe that there is probably no more than 80 people here, I would say certainly no more than a hundred. The band take the stage and they are a fairly formidable rhythm and blues outfit, and before Ms Spector takes the stage, they run through a rousing cover of David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel”, as a tribute that I hope will be followed up, but more of that later.
The Goddess is announced and she takes to the stage, obviously older, but actually the vision of her younger self, petite, sliding as if on wheels across the stage, hair that is some beehive, some lion’s mane. I feel troubled that what greets her eyes is not exactly a reasonable compliment; mainly middle aged people sitting in a dark theatre, patient and respectful, but hardly bubbling with excited energy.
We are treated to a selection of some of the most transcendental pop music ever made by one of the true originals, and let me say Ms Spector is in great voice, sounding exactly like she did in 1963, and let us not undervalue the importance of this woman, her image and her look. Before Ronnie there was only tweeness, pop stars in a constant state of puberty, or older befuddled, bitter country singers. Okay, that might be a bit of a generalisation, but Ronnie Spector is the first, the first to understand how a pop song could and should be delivered, with sexiness, a little coquettish, powerful enough to blow the minds of a whole generation and simple enough to sung by them from the backseat of their friend’s cars. So, let us be clear; no Ronnie Spector – no Madonna, Rhianna, Aretha, Grace Slick, Siouxsie, Ga Ga, and if you think that’s a broad range and an overblown statement, don’t talk to me about the subject when I’m drinking. Ronnie Spector created the whole idea of the female pop star in control, if not in her career, in her song, making every lyric and motif her own. And she had balls. The original bad girl of Rock and Roll, to whom so many are indebted.
Nothing has changed. She is great tonight – the in-between stories of the origins of songs are too rehearsed, right down to the interjections of laughter – but when she sings, she really sings. I felt sure she would perform one of the best records she ever made, “Try Some, Buy Some”, written for her by George Harrison in the ’70s, and covered by Bowie in 2004, hence the connection, but that connection is never made. She does however perform a beautiful rendition of one of Lennon and McCartney’s hidden gem, “I’ll Follow The Sun”. Other songs still sound like the timeless, fresh classics they did the moment they were recorded; “Walking In The Rain” and “Baby, I Love You” be ably delivered by the band, no small fete to take on Phil Spector’s original productions.
Finally, towards the end we get an encore of “Be My Baby”, my friend can no longer contain his excitement, and regardless of countless people stopping filming, dancing, it seems breathing, he gets up and starts dancing in the isle. I follow him. Then, the other people in the hall do, we edge to the front of the stage, everyone is now up and dancing, I reach out my hand to the beautiful Ronnie Spector, as she takes it she sings the “Oh-oh oh ooh” part of the song right to me and smiles that most captivating of smiles. I think against some odds, Ronnie Spector left a very happy woman, for the love at the end of the show was so palatable, and compared to the beginning the atmosphere was absolutely electric. I left my head spinning, childishly in love again, like every other member of this small audience. Not many singers maintain their voices like this artist who is now **. Tonight when she sang, she was pretty stunning. Project cancelled, ambition succeeded. What a beautiful night.