SEXY BALLADEER AND CLASSY SONGSTRESS PROVE THEIR POINT.
Teddy Pendergrass and Dionne
Warwick are worth the wait.
Uncasville, Ct - July 15, 2001 Ninty miles from Boston, on the banks of the Connecticut River, a tower of steel and glass rises like a beacon to weary travelers, directing them to an oasis, where their hunger and thirst for all things worldly can be satisfied.
This modern marvel, although only half finished, completely overwhems the senior buildings beneath it. And, at the time of completion, they will only be an after thought, though most of the attention by the visitor of these shores will be given to them for they hold the reason for their coming, gaming and entertainment at the Mohegan Sun Casino.
In the great parking lot of this resort lies a temporary complex built to house even more temporary the acts needed to keep the traveler coming, and once there satisfied. Many name acts find themselves in The Pavillion, as it's called, along with boxing. Top individuals and groups have been a mainstay of the Casino since the Big Tents' inauguaral evening. Names familiar as being a part of the nineties and the New milliniem. Sure hits, new and fresh, with something for now. Standing, godlike above those icons of old. Until, like the concert of the 15th, the old outshines the new.
Teddy Pendergrass was the first of the silky smooth solo balladeers. Having made his mark with one of Philadelphia's most successful acts during R&Bs heyday of the late '70s, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, he set out on a unbelivably successful career as a solo artist specializing in sexy ballads.
Having multi platinum albums to his credit and a touring show that filled stadiums Teddy was flying high when everything came tumbling down in the winter of 1982 after an automobile accident left him a parapalegic. Although successfully overcoming his physical and mental problems enough to record a new CD in 1999, Teddy as his many legions of mostly female fans call him, had not toured since the accident. Until Sunday, July 15, 2001.
The crowd of 4,000 strong, a two thirds house, was first treated to a short film history of the baritone singer's life up to and including his training for this arduous over an hour set. The images on the three screens portrayed a Pendergrass in great shape and that wide grin, on a completely masculine featured face, that by the reaction of the females in the crowd (including the Lovely Paula) could still drive them wild without saying saying a word or singing a syllible. They needn't have worried about that.
As if on cue (as indeed it was), TP's voice was heard to say "are you ready" as the curtain rose and he came to center stage to thunderous applause. Not hesitating for a moment, but seizing it, he started into an hour and one half set that at times was majestic.
Most artists begin slow, then work themselves up to the level that they feel will best work. You would think that would have to be the case for a man bound to a moving chair, and in a predicament that would cause many others to just work to get breath to talk, let alone sing; and sing well. Not Teddy. The loud gospel tinged You Got What I Need was the upbeat opening. Followed immediately
by the beginning of his Rap, and his signature Love TKO. Having been dipatched by love the only way back was to take charge again with the heart melting, Close the Door. (How do I know the womens' hearts were melting? I was slipping and sliding on something). And so it went, on and on. Backed by the one of the most talented bands I have had the pleasure to listen to, 2 guitars, base guitar, drums, two keyboards, percussionist, sax and 5 backup singers (two male and 3 female) you could tell that he was serious. Oh yes, one dancer, who just happens to be his oldest daughter. Teddy's back, and I tell you if you watched the torso shots of the him on the screen and not the man bound by fate in his moving island, you'd have to say nothing's changed.
Dionne Warwick has come by success the old fashioned way: she's earned it. Honing her skills in nightclubs(at even the then Estelle's Lounge here in Boston) during a time before cable and big stadium concerts were even invented, she knew early that presentation was a part of the act. But, it was the voice that counted and if you wanted them to listen to you, if you had one(as she certainly did) then the less attention they paid to your physical presence the better. Slim, with classical high cheek bones and a continual come
hither look she captured the hearts of all who looked upon her. Maybe she attended some sort of charm or finishing school(such was the norm of the time, the late fifties), this writer can,t say, but the early air of sophistication, wherever gained, added a touch of class that had to be noticed. And noticed it was, by one of the most talented and prolific pianist and writers of his day: Burt Bachrach. After seeing and listening to her one time he knew that she was the one to sell his songs to a universal audience. That was 39 years ago and the rest, as they say, is history.
A great wine becomes better over time. A diamonds brilliance never leaves. A singer's voice, now that's another matter. The ability to hit notes or change octaves at will sometimes eludes even the great ones like Dionne Warwick. But you know something
the sound is still there. The unmistakeable heartstring pulling call to cease whatever you're doing to cause her(and by extention all women[yes and men]the pain she feels.
From the moment Dionne glided onto the
stage, backed by her six piece ensemble, which included her rythum guitar player of 40 years(as long as he has been touring)she had us at her command. First out of respect for who she was, and then, for the joy of what she brought us. Knowing what her audience wanted to hear, she started right in with her 1st recording, the begging 1960s hit, Don't Make Me Over, written before her collaboration with Bachrach. Following were the catchy tunes formed from that merger. Then came a show stopping rendention of her Signature song for many, A House Is Not A Home Between you and me, Moses doesn't care who covers this tune; when Dionne sings: "when I climb the stair, and turn the key-oh please be there, still in Love with me." it still has the same effect it did all those many years ago: shivers. Dionne recognises now that her best forum for performing is on the smaller stage and I saw this foray into a larger venue as an experiment. And for the most part, it worked. The middle of the act was a precursor to where she is headed for in the future(she says she has found everything she has been looking for in Brazil), South America. Although the songs were catchy they were not what her audience came to here and Classy Lady that she is she didn't respond with anger but with Love by saving a couple of the favorites for last and ending with the classic, That's What Friends Are For. As she was walked off the stage exhorting us to "keep smiling, keep shining, knowing you can always count on me", this brilliant sixtyish icon did what all classy women do; keep her lovers wishing there was more. No encore.