She Passed The Greatest Test Easily...
Guardian: Whitney Houston, Birmingham Arena
'She passed the greatest test easily' ... Whitney Houston performing live in
"I'm feeling pretty good myself," Whitney tells the crowd,
"thank you for asking." Nobody had actually asked, but give Houston credit
for addressing the big issue – how was she coping on her first British tour
since recovering from a drug addiction that wiped out most of the past
decade as far as her career was concerned.
"Have a good look," she said, putting her hands on her hips and wriggling
the confusion of white satin and silver sparkles she was wearing. She looked
pretty good, she sounded pretty good. No, she sounded better than that –
contrary to reports from Australia, the pipes were in full working order.
Whatever drugs did to her they didn't impede her ability to deliver a song
with all flags flying.
Her first UK tour in 11 years began in typically eventful style. It was due
to kick off in Manchester last week but she was felled by a respiratory
infection that landed her in hospital, fuelling rumours she'd had a drug
relapse. She dismissed the speculation as ridiculous and there was no
evidence at her opening night in Birmingham that she was anything but
engaged and happy to be on stage.
Poor Houston, you can't help but think – she can't catch a cold without
being scrutinised. Some of her behaviour here, it's true, petered between
the eccentric and the charmingly kooky – she chattered ramblingly between
songs, signed an autograph from the stage, started sentences and didn't
finish them – but the proof of her sanity was in her singing.
Some of her songs – Saving All My Love for You, The Greatest Love of All –
you wouldn't want to hear them if she could not sing them as she used to.
But she passed the greatest test easily; she joked that she couldn't reveal
what year It's Not Right But It's OK came out because "then you'll know how
old I am", but there was little difference between the recorded version and
There was rather too much of her current album, I Look to You – its less
than memorable churning funk clogged up the first half hour and even hearing
Houston singing "pull your pants up for the next three minutes" in For the
Lovers made up for the tune going on for a good deal longer than three
The title track was a mawkish devotional number with slide show that
depicted a bleak winter landscape turning into lush summer. Yes, yes, we get
the message, you've made it through the rain. The stage was crowded with
dancers, musicians, and backing vocalists but Houston had no need of their
support. She's definitely back.
NEWSFILE: 14 APRIL 2010