The great voices of Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes ushered in the holiday season at The Madison Theatre at Molloy College Saturday night, an event that turned into a love fest between audience and performer. Now in her mid-70’s, Spector opened up her holiday concert tour on Long Island, and after donning a red and white Santa suit for her grand finale, there was no doubt that the Christmas season had begun.
In a plain black pantsuit, Spector and her trademark bouffant hair controlled the stage as her talented and energetic backup group, the Ronettes and 5 piece band, kept the hits coming – both seasonal ones and her number one records.. An Imax screen behind the band ran videos of Spector’s early days on the stage: being interviewed by American Bandstand’s Dick Clark, doing a mean Twist and celebrating her first hit record in 1961. This night, Spector did them all: Peppermint Twist; Be My Little Baby; Frosty the Snowman; Baby, I Love You; I Believe In Music; and Sleigh Ride, and in between told stories about her life, missing her sister Estelle, and how she had a crush on the Macy’s Santa.
The audience was filled with baby boomers who grew up on Spector’s big Wall of Sound — songs recorded loud and with heavy orchestration — and knew the words to every one. Spector didn’t have to ask them twice to sing along. In three moving tributes, Ronnie sang How Can You Mend A Broken Heart to her sister, Back to Black to Amy Winehouse, and Imagine to John Lennon, whom she dated for a time in the early 1960’s.
Though that Wall of Sound was replaced with the British Invasion groups, Ronnie continued to tour and collaborate with those groups, as well as the up and coming Bruce Springsteen. In 1986, she returned to the pop charts in a duet with Eddie Money (Take Me Home Tonight), and in 2007 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Billboard Magazine voted her record, Be My Little Baby, as the number one “Greatest Girl Group Song of All Time.” These rock and roll hits, though simple in lyrics, still continue to pack a wallop, and spread unmistakable joy when performed almost – gulp – 50 years later. When Ronnie sings, “WHOA, HO, HO, HO, HO,” everyone in the crowd knows what she’s talking about.
The Madison Theatre at Molloy College is located 30 minutes from Manhattan in Rockville Centre, Long Island, and offers a variety of world class entertainment. Its lineup for the remainder of 2018 includes “Swing In The Holidays” (December 9); “The 6th Annual Holiday Spectacular: A Home for the Holidays” (December 15/16); “Here’s to the Band: Songs and Stories of Frank Sinatra & Tony Bennett” (December 31). Their 2019 season includes comedy nights, jazz, orchestral, Celtic music and children’s programs. For more information on events and tickets, visit madisontheatreny.org.
Photo credit: Evan Seplow