Not Right, But Okay...

[From Gulf Weekly]

VALENTINE’S night, Whitney Houston, love songs, romance… not for the weak or broken-hearted but for the dreamers, lovers, connoisseurs of good music and fine food.

A night to remember? Well at Dh750, that was what it was supposed to be.

However, the truth was somewhat different.

The venue? Great. The food? Good, although it was a take-it-or-leave-it choice, not a hard decision here if you’re hungry and stuffed chicken and chocolate cake is always a winner.

The ambience? Candlelit tables under the stars, however, not an overly romantic scene as you and your significant other share a table for ten with eight other strangers. (Or worse, people you know!) Maybe as you look romantically into each other’s loving eyes, the other eight people at the table are supposed to pale into insignificance.

The atmosphere was electric, one of diva anticipation and then, after ages of waiting, there she was, right in front of us! The one and only Whitney Houston, in the flesh. As she started off with the song Get it back from the album My love is your love, the audience rocked. She then led into If I told you that and Heartbreak hotel and on through a collection of various hits from the past, including Step by step, Waiting to exhale (shoop shoop), It’s not right, but it’s ok and from back in the middle ages, I wanna dance with somebody who loves me and How will I know.

The voice? The diva herself just couldn’t cut it, the power was there but none of the clarity and precision that made this woman stand out from the rest. In fact, a terribly hoarse and croaky version of the voice that used to send shivers down my spine now sent shut-down signals to my ears!

As little Bobbi Kristina, Whitney’s daughter with husband Bobby Brown, came on stage, the crowd warmed; the larger-than-life little star had the audience in her hand as she helped Mum out with a few choruses.

As we neared the moment everyone in the audience was waiting for, that Bodyguard moment that so-so famous song that everyone I have ever known has tried to sing on karaoke and failed miserably with… I will always love you. An all-time-classic that will never die, it’s a song that has tried and put to the test the best of waterproof mascaras because of course, its notes can only be delivered by this true diva.

Well that’s what I’ve believed for so long but there you go – things aren’t always what they seem. Ms Houston went on to tell us that she did record it when she was much younger and that she did have a cold and perhaps she wouldn’t be able to reach those little notes like she used to. Surely she jests, I thought, this is the queen herself.
I was wrong. She couldn’t hit the notes. Her voice was hard and rough, there were breaths taken in the middle of sentences and notes not even attempted by the diva herself but carried by the three wonderful backing singers on Ms Houston’s behalf. Overall, I wasn’t overly surprised when I heard her say this was only her fourth concert in five years (she’d had three concerts in Russia just before the UAE trip), maybe she should have rehearsed more.

Maybe I should have expected it when she skirted around her other hits, Saving all my love for you and Greatest love of all, choosing to segue into other songs instead of taking them to their logical ends, to the bits that required more vocal effort. But then, it was Whitney Houston after all.

GW Verdict? The once-dazzling Ms Whitney Houston is no more the diva of her former years. Overall, the concert was a good effort by a lady who should perhaps quit and leave us all with those beautiful memories of the way it was. And let Valentine’s be a night for true stars.



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