Dionne Warwick's dream concert
If Dionne Warwick was in a low gear before recording her latest pop-soul album She’s Back, she changed that perception this year. Warwick preceded the May release of her first studio album in five years with four performances at Bally’s, then recorded a Christmas album that she wrapped up before taking command of Cleopatra’s Barge inside Caesars Palace in September. This two-month stretch of An Evening with Dionne Warwick ends later this month, but her decades-long rule as a lifelong member of Vegas performing royalty remains.
That life began surrounded by music. Warwick began to sing at a young age as a member of the Drinkard Singers, a gospel group led by her father. She grew up singing spirituals alongside her aunt Cissy Drinkard (later Cissy Houston). As was often the case with gospel singers with pop potential, Warwick’s path led her to secular music by the early ’60s. Although her stage presence already exuded sophistication and soothing sensuality, her partnership with Burt Bacharach and Hal David helped enhance and cement that image.
The songwriting team initially approached her to record demos, but her own potential was quickly recognized. After charting with several of her songs and touring France, where she was enthusiastically introduced by Marlene Dietrich, she had her first Top 10 hit in November 1963 with “Anyone Who Had a Heart.” That was followed up six months later with the release of what became one of Warwick’s signature songs, “Walk On By.”
Bacharach and David would compose more songs that Warwick made into hits, including the theme from Alfie, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” and “I Say a Little Prayer,” the A-side of “(Theme From) Valley of the Dolls,” (which was produced by Bacharach and David). She had her first No. 1 hit in 1974 with “Then Came You,” recorded with The Spinners and Philadelphia-sound producer Thom Bell.
In 1979, she recorded the song that solidified her status as a legend. “I’ll Never Love This Way Again,” produced by Barry Manilow, earned her a Grammy. She followed that up with sultry single “Déjà Vu,” with music by Isaac Hayes, and by the next year was in living rooms every week as host of syndicated song-hit countdown series Solid Gold. Warwick took a break from her hosting duties to record 1982 album Heartbreaker, produced by Barry Gibb with songs written by the Bee Gees, which became a massive international hit.
Warwick’s latest albums have been guided by her son, acclaimed producer Damon Elliott (AKA Buck 22), who was behind the boards for Dionne Warwick & The Voices of Christmas. The newly released album features guest appearances by The Oak Ridge Boys with Ricky Skaggs, Michael McDonald and Aloe Blacc, who duets with Warwick on “This Christmas.” That song may provide Warwick with her 81st Billboard chart hit, and if her fans have been really good this year she could be inspired to include it in her final Cleopatra’s Barge shows of the year.
Caesars Palace, 8 p.m. Nov. 3, 7-10, 14-17 & 21-24, starting at $94.99 plus tax and fee. 702.777.2782