Ronnie Spector – 29/09/08 – The Arches

Published

Lewis Porteous

As a cursory glance at her official website will suggest, Ronnie Spector is obsessed with the notion of ‘rocking,’ perhaps to an extent not usually expected of a sixty-five year old.

“I started out rocking,” she informs her Glasgow audience, “and I’m gonna go out rocking!” She neglects to mention that she will carry out approximately fifty percent of this ‘rocking’ from a velvet futon, which she will mount whenever she needs to catch her breath. Nor does she acknowledge that her unique brand of ‘rocking’ will essentially consist of unwillingly off-kilter singing and faux-coquettish belly exposure. Still, on with the show!

The evening’s set begins with her band taking to the stage alone, bursting into a pub-funk jam which can only be described as ‘painfully poor.’ Things pick up as Spector, accompanied by a minder resembling Drew Carey on anabolic steroids, arrives, launching into a rendition of 1964’s ‘I Wonder.’

Though her voice lacks its toughness of old, her apparent frailty only serves to lend the vintage material, a song in which she speculates about future romances, a knowing poignancy. Likewise, Billy Joel’s ‘Say Goodbye to Hollywood,’ a track which sounded jaded when she cut it in the late ‘70s, sounds plain bitter when spat from the mouth of the proud, ageing New Yorker.

There’s no questioning the former Mrs Spector’s credentials as a true rock ‘n’ roll survivor, and it is in the instances of the perforamance during which she assumes the mantle of an elder stateswoman that her set truly comes together.

Not all of her peerless back catalogue, however, is designed to survive the ‘grown-up’ treatment, and too frequently does the icon come across as a bizarre, nostalgic sideshow; a Sexagenarian dry-humping her way through a classic teenage songbook, oblivious to the irony of her situation.  Recent cuts such as Johnny Thunders’ ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory’ tend to hold up more convincingly, as Spector breaks from her state of arrested development, acknowledging her mortality and decline in career prospects.

If paired with a suitable producer (any mentions of Phil are strictly taboo) and the correct writers, Spector could possibly achieve a critical and commercial Renaissance.  As it stands, Spector does rock – provided your definition of ‘rocking’ is to veer dangerously close to becoming purely a nostalgia act.