After 50 years of attending concerts and clubs, and interviewing artists ranging from Allen Toussaint and James Brown to Lenny White and Esperanza Spalding, I was reduced to a star-struck fan last night. The occasion was Ronnie Spector’s Best Christmas Ever, at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in Minneapolis. Sitting stage-side, I was grinning throughout her hour and a half performance, and thrilled when she reached out to shake my hand.
Spector’s voice, with her familiar Whuh Ho Hos, was clear and powerful. She sang and talked with the enthusiasm of a schoolgirl, and donned a Christmas outfit for her encore. She paid homage to a number of her own heroes and friends, including John Lennon (Happy Xmas), Johnny Thunders (“Memory”), and Frankie Lymon (“Christmas Again”). She sang new Christmas songs, chestnuts like “Sleigh Ride,” her hits and a couple of lesser known Ronettes tunes like Paradise and You Baby. It was a treat to hear her do a couple of vocal group gems: “I’m So Young,” a song by the Students that she recorded with Phil Spector, and “Please Say You Want Me,” originally done by the Schoolboys, and at this point, only available as a download from her website.
I didn’t take notes. Didn’t take photos. Didn’t analyze the sound. I just sat there smiling. For an hour and a half I was, along with everyone in the room, deliriously happy to hear Ronnie.