The Greatest Love of All at the London Palladium
Cited by Guinness World Records as the most awarded female artist of all time with over 200 million records sold worldwide, Whitney Elizabeth Houston, daughter of Gospel RnB singer Cissy Houston and cousin to Dionne Warwick, was an artist like no other. Following her tragic death aged 48 in 2012, it was inevitable that with her profound influence on the world of music other artists would pay tribute.
The brainchild of Australian director Jonny Van Grinsven, The Greatest Love of All is a critically acclaimed, captivating live concert celebrating Whitney’s legacy, but finding an artist that could embody her staggering vocals and timeless style was going to be quite a challenge. Out of 15,000 entrants, Belinda Davids was bestowed that honour – which seems only natural as it was listening to Whitney that taught the performer how to sing, and her lifelong devotion has taken her all over the globe. Last night placed her centre stage at the London Palladium with a backing band of none other than the London Philharmonic Orchestra, who began the evening with a haunting medley.
The spotlight hit and lit up Belinda in a stunning gown and sparkling jewels looking every inch the diva as she launched into the opening lines of Chaka Khan’s I’m Every Woman. By the end of this 1993 track our star had put fire inside the entire theatre, who were in awe of this woman’s vocal power and similarities to Miss Houston.
An emotive Didn’t We Almost Have It All followed; this number one from way back in 1987 was a jewel in the artist’s extensive repertoire and it sparkled all over again, delighting the crowd and tugging the heartstrings.
Belinda returned in a vibrant red leather trouser suit and dancers to perform the title track for 1990’s quadruple-platinum album I’m Your Baby Tonight. Delivered With astonishing lyrical accuracy and bags of attitude, it was a sure-fire crowd pleaser. Similarly, How Will I Know (passed over by Janet Jackson) had the entire Palladium up on their feet singing along to this catchy dance number.
Before Whitney was a global superstar, when she was simply an American girl with a dream, record mogul Clive Davis heard her singing in a New York club and he knew he had to sign her. The song she performed was George Bensons hit The Greatest Love of All, so it was the perfect song to bring this spectacular first half to a close. After Belinda’s flawless rendition, the theatre was desperate for more.
Part two exploded with knee-high black leather boots, an arresting black velvet dress with diamonte chains, steamy dance routines and commanding vocals as Belinda declared she was the Queen of the Night. Sounding fierce and fabulous, this pop rock/dance number was co-written by Whitney herself for the 1993 soundtrack to her blockbuster debut film The Bodyguard, co-starring Oscar-winner Kevin Costner.
In 1988, along with her host of awards and hit records, Whitney became the voice of the Seoul Olympics with the inspirational anthem One Moment In Time. Tonight, you could feel the love from every corner of the Palladium as tears fell and arms swayed. The recognition became evident across Belinda’s face – her voice effortlessly soaring and that signature finger point to the sky affirming that she was indeed feeling eternity – so it was unsurprising after a such a connective moment to hear the theatre erupt and a standing ovation bestowed our visibly overwhelmed star.
Belinda kept asking us “how you doing London?” Well, thanks to her breathtaking vocal talent and the exceptional quality of the entire show, everyone was feeling like a Million Dollar Bill. Written by artist Alica Keys, this feel-good 2009 toe-tapper was Miss Houston’s critically acclaimed comeback track, taken from her seventh and final studio album I Look To You.
Slowing the tempo of one of Whitney’s most treasured gems, Saving All My Love For You, added emphasis and a layer of originality. There were a few bumps, but it all came into sync, strangely just as Miss Davids went into the wings, her bewitching vocals still floating in the air with the spotlight on the Saxophonist. Eyes darted everywhere, the house lights came up and suddenly our songstress was in the stalls, making her way down the lines and interacting with her star-struck devotees, people grabbing photos and delighting in being so close to such a magnetic talent. Handling the throng and not missing a beat or high note, Belinda savoured her deserved adoration, as the crowd went wild.
Staying on our feet for Whitney’s disco classic I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me) fittingly prompted somebody to dance and get on the platform in front of the stage, until she was gently escorted off so that the performer could say her goodbyes. Since we hadn’t had the pleasure of Whitney’s signature track, it wasn’t long before the cheering and screams for more were satisfied with an angelic return; in a beautiful white gown, Belinda took centre stage one last time to share the acapella opening of The Bodyguard’s I Will Always Love You, singing as much to the theatre as paying pitch-perfect homage to one of the greatest voices that ever lived, as the screen behind displayed key moments in Whitney’s brief and extraordinary life.
That searing sax solo and then silence, and the moment vocalists all over the world dread, taking a breath and looking a little worried. Then the drum hit, the lights flashed and Belinda knocked it out of the park, sounding eerily like Miss Houston she again brought down the house with cheers and deafening applause for her magnificent portrayal.
As Whitney sometimes ended concerts with the Elvis classic The Battle Hymn of the Republic, it was the ideal rousing finale and contained the longest note held of the evening, a mightily impressive feat after two hours of remarkable vocal agility and powerhouse performances as Belinda shared with us The Greatest Love of All.
Photo: David Menace
For further information and future events visit The Greatest Love of All’s website here.