Last night Ronnie Spector — she of the Ronettes — appeared before a sold-out house at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis to perform a Christmas show. Backed by a five-piece band and two backup singers, Ronnie turned the clock back while performing the Ronettes’ greatest hits in addition to the Christmas fare.
She looked great and sounded fantastic. The lady still has the pipes. In his writeup for the Star Tribune this morning, rock critic Jon Bream raves: “Ronnie Spector’s Best Christmas Ever show Sunday at the Dakota was the best performance by a 1960s vocal act I’ve seen in recent memory.”
Ronnie turned the clock back to the mid-’60’s with a couple of differences. She was backed by a better band than she would have had then and the sound was superior to what we would have heard then.
Ronnie (born Veronica Bennett) formed the Ronettes with her sister and cousin. They originally found a performing home at the Peppermint Lounge in New York City, where they worked as dancers during the “Twist” craze in the early ’60s. Ronnie was the lady with the big hair and bigger voice that captivated the maniacal Phil Spector. Last night Ronnie mentioned several times that her life stopped when she married Spector but, like Ishmael in Moby Dick, she survived to tell the story.
Spector teamed up with the girls to provide the Ronettes with his patented “wall of sound” production just before the Beatles broke through in the United States. Among the hits that followed were “Be My Baby,” “Baby I Love You,” “Best Part of Breaking Up,” “Do I Love You,” “So Young,” and the Grammy-winning “Walking in the Rain.”
Ronnie performed all those songs last night and ended the show on a peak with the Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich anthem “I Can Hear Music,” a song that she recorded with the Ronettes before the Beach Boys turned it into a hit in 1969. I love the way the song gives expressive form to the metaphor in its title. It was the perfect song on which to end this wonderful show.
The video above shows Ronnie performing “Walking in the Rain” in London two weeks ago. She returns to the Dakota again tonight at 7:00 p.m. If you have the chance to see her, don’t miss it.