Winning Spector of the past
Last Updated: 11:08 AM, July 10, 2012
Posted: 11:19 PM, July 9, 2012
RONNIE SPECTOR: BEYOND THE BEEHIVE
City Winery, 155 Varick St.; 212-608-0555. Next performances Saturday and July 20 and 27.
A Ronnie Spector show without “Be My Baby” or “Baby, I Love You”? Who could imagine it?
Phil Spector, that’s who.
As the former lead singer of the Ronettes explains it, she can sing those hits in concert, but not in any theatrical context, such as her autobiographical show “Beyond the Beehive.” Apparently, even from his jail cell, her ex-husband’s still pulling the strings.
Nevertheless, the 68-year-old singer succeeds with this score-settling evening of music and reminiscences, accompanied by vintage films and photos, which plays like a live version of her 1989 autobiography.
Coiffed in a milder approximation of her trademark ’do, she has an arresting story to tell, from her triumphant beginning, performing with sister Estelle and cousin Nedra, to her years as a virtual prisoner in Spector’s LA mansion and her triumphant comeback with “Take Me Home Tonight,” her 1986 hit single with Eddie Money.
She drops plenty of names along the way, no surprise considering that the Ronettes toured with The Beatles and once had the Rolling Stones as their opening act. John Lennon had a major crush on her, George Harrison and Joey Ramone wrote songs for her, and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played backup on her cover of Billy Joel’s “Say Goodbye to Hollywood,” a song she inspired.
Granted, the show, for which the performer has theatrical aspirations, needs work. Spector, nervously reading from an iPad, isn’t a natural raconteur, and her chattiness proves excessive. But while the evening needs pruning, she tells her tale with genuine emotion, sometimes choking up while relating the most painful experiences from her past.
Her story certainly has an ideal villain in Spector, whom she describes as “a bitter, spiteful man,” and whose humiliating, wig-free mug shot is projected on large screens to audience boos.
Her iconic voice hasn’t lost its power, evidenced by her renditions of such classics as “Walking in the Rain,” “(The Best Part of) Breakin’ Up,” “Frosty the Snowman” and the Stones’ “Time Is on My Side.”
“Time is on my side,” she declared to cheers after finishing that number. “The other person’s in prison.”
She’s certainly gotten the last laugh. The Ronettes were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, though Phil Spector led a lengthy campaign to prevent it.
“You’d think he might have focused on his murder trial,” the singer acidly observed.
As this account of her later years (and happy second marriage) attests, living well is the best revenge.