LONDON -- Sixties girl-group star Ronnie Spector, recently signed to Oasis' U.K.
label, performed power-pop versions of her Ronettes hits along with Ramones
and Beach Boys songs and Christmas classics in a rare club show Sunday night.
English singer/songwriter Beth Orton, New York punk-rocker Joey Ramone and
Creation Records boss Alan McGee were in the audience of sharply dressed
young mods, bemused-looking middle-aged couples and London media types who
packed the North London club, Dingwalls, to see the 55-year-old pop legend.
Orton joined Spector for a version of "I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine,"
which Orton covered on her debut album, Trailer Park. Spector sang
two tunes with Ramone, including the Ramones' "Bye Bye Baby."
Another Ramones song, "She Talks to Rainbows," is the lead cut on Spector's
debut EP for Creation, slated for release Jan. 18 in the U.K. Joey Ramone
produced the record.
A six-piece band, including two female singer/guitarists who supplied
Ronettes-style harmonies, backed Spector on Sunday. She made a suitably
diva-ish entry, 20 minutes late, in an alarmingly low-cut velvet number, and
proceeded to make rough-edged power-pop out of such Ronettes songs as "Be My
Baby" and other classics of the era, including the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry
After almost every number, Spector declared, "It's great to be back" or "I
love you." Her joie de vivre was infectious. McGee, beaming, said, "I don't
want to talk to anybody; I just want to hear this music."
One fan, Sarah Reddington, 23, said Spector's band sounded more like a "pile
of rubble" than a wall of sound, but she seemed happy nonetheless.
Things went slightly off-the-wall when Spector's guests turned up midway
through the set. Orton didn't quite look prepared to be dragged onstage by
Spector, who proceeded to belt out an uptempo version of "I Never Saw the
Sunshine," which Orton had turned into a spaced-out folk tune for her own
album. Orton's thin, fragile voice may work on her own records, but standing
next to a full-on diva, she seemed to shrink into the wool hat that was
pulled well down over her head. She appeared relieved when the whole thing
was over, running offstage to bury her head on her companion's shoulder.
Next up was Spector's longtime pal Ramone, who turned in a rather more
spirited performance on two numbers, "Bye Bye Baby" and "Baby, I Love You."
He wasted no time in thanking McGee and Creation Records for being “a record
company with vision."
On a cold, wintry night, with Christmas decorations all over Dingwalls,
Spector couldn't leave without a helping of the Christmas songs she helped
turn into pop classics on future-husband Phil Spector's 1963 album, A
Christmas Gift for You. For her encore, she returned in a Santa Claus
outfit and sang "Frosty The Snowman" and "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."
The evening was best summed up by concert-goer Ted Rushby, 28: "I was
worried that this might be some horrible, cheesy cabaret, but it was the
complete opposite, really rough around the edges," Rushby said. "I always
worry about seeing legends, but at the end of the day, Ronnie enjoyed
herself so much, everybody else did."