We went to the final night of Dionne Warwick's tour and were fascinated by her story

Dionne Warwick on stage at the Ulster Hall in Belfast
-Credit: (Image: James McCarthy/Belfast Live)


It's not often that you can automatically sense that you are in the presence of a living legend but that's how it played out as singing sensation Dionne Warwick took to the stage at the Ulster Hall in Belfast for the final night of her 'in conversation' tour Don't Make Me Over.

Having previously visited the city back in 2022 on her farewell tour, the 83-year-old was back and this time it was more paired back and focused on reflecting on her life and career.

Earlier in the week, Dionne had come under criticism on RTÉ's Liveline programme after callers phoned in to complain about the format of the show following her two dates at Dublin's Vicar Street, despite it having been advertised as a unique show featuring songs performed with a live band, as well as on-stage discussions with interviewer Dave Wooley, so I was unsure what to expect from her final show on the tour in Belfast.

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Arriving at the Ulster Hall, notices had been placed around the venue to inform guests that Dionne would open the two-act show with a rendition of her first hit 'Don't Make Me Over' followed by a discussion accompanied by clips from the documentary and that the second act would include a further discussion and a 30 minute set to finish off.

Arriving promptly on stage at 8 pm, Dionne was dressed in jeans and a white shirt. Having informed the crowd that she was suffering from a cold and that she would try her best, she proceeded to sing and it was clear that her age had taken a strain on her vocal cords.

After opening the show, Dionne explained how Dave Wooley had "pestered" her to do a documentary on her life and she eventually gave in before inviting him out on stage where the pair talked at length for an hour sharing anecdotes about her life and career.

Shortly before 9 pm, the band reappeared on stage and Dionne performed a duet of 'I Say A Little Prayer' with her son, famed music producer David Elliot who was also accompanying her on the drums that evening.

After a 20-minute interval, Dionne and Dave Wooley reappeared on stage for further a further discussion which lasted around 40 minutes. The pair recalled everything from Dionne's relationship with her aunt Sissie Houston and her cousin the late Whitney Houston to meeting Elvis in Las Vegas where he placed autographs inside her records to help her sell them.

She also recalled meeting driving past Tom Jones who was standing in the rain in New Jersey and taking him to The Apollo Theatre where he made his debut and surprised the audience with the fact that he was white.

Dionne Warwick chatting to Dave Wooley onstage in Belfast
Dionne Warwick chatting to Dave Wooley onstage in Belfast -Credit:James McCarthy/Belfast Live

Dionne recounted how she had a similar experience performing in Paris for the first time after her record The Empty Place was released in Paris with a white woman on the cover, only for the audience to be shocked when they realised that Dionne was black.

Throught the show, we saw clips from the documentary 'Don't Make Me Over' (which is available to watch for free on the BBC iPlayer) including interviews with the like of Elton John, President Clinton and Snoop Dogg.

Recalling how she summoned a load of 'gangster rappers' to her home to chastise them for referring to women as 'bitches' in their songs, Dionne proudly told the audience that "it takes a gangster to know a gangster" which was followed by a clip of Snoop Dogg explaining how that first meeting with Dionne sparked a lasting friendship between the pair.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the night came from Warwick recalling her involvement in the fight against aids and how she forced President Reagan to refer to the pandemic as such.

The one area of Dionne's life that was only touched on briefly was her famous feud with the late Cilla Black who famously "stole" a number of her songs. While Dionne has spoken candidly in the past, the only reference to it in this tour came from discussing the song Alfie and how, despite there being over 40 versions of the song, Dionne is the only person to have a hit with it.

Finishing the show at the piano once more, Dionne treated the audience to a number of her hits from over the years before leaving the stage to a standing ovation.

While the format of the show may not have been to everyone's taste, it's not every day you are sitting in front of the first black person to win a Grammy in the pop category and to see her perform live was an honour.

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