IT TAKES JUST a few bars of Baby, I Love You to realise that there ain’t no one who sings “whoah-oh” quite like Ronnie Spector does. Even at the age of 72, her voice – a combination of the sweet teenage innocence that initially seduced producer Phil Spector and then the world, and a life fully lived – is a thing of genuine wonder. It’s hardly surprising, then, that tears of joy are being wept among the rapt audience at the Barbican.
Ronnie’s presentation of her greatest hits and influences, interspersed with her telling stories of being discovered at The Peppermint Lounge, touring with the youthful Rolling Stones and giving Dusty Springfield a beehive, could so easily fall into cheesy territory were it not for her heartfelt and sincere delivery.
Speaking of her fellow Ronettes – late sister Estelle and cousin Nedra Talley – she frequently wipes something from her eye and it’s impossible not to be caught up with the emotions. But it’s those Ronettes hits that truly hit home. The drums that usher in Be My Baby are direct shots to the heart with Spector singing as gloriously as she did 53 years ago, and it doesn’t take too much encouragement from her to get the audience on its feet. Walking In The Rain is simply magnificent as it ebbs and flows like powerful riptides as elsewhere, the closing number of I Can Hear Music beautifully articulates the majesty of love with Spector and her band united in a communion of music that transcends its surroundings and kisses the heavens.
While her disgraced husband has taken many of the historical plaudits due the Ronettes, this is a towering performance that serves to remind of the voice, the presence and personality that helped bring those songs to life. Ronnie Spector was, and forever will be, her own woman.