Heineken Nightlive is a multi-artist, multi-evening musical event featuring several top acts. This year Donna Summer performed. It was not a full concert, but she did do 6 of her biggest songs to a very appreciative audience. Several fans who attended have written reviews, and it is my pleasure to share reviews by Lody and Roderik with you.
There I was, in a full crowded Ahoy Concerthall. Just left of the huge stage. The Heineken Nightlive show intended to be an oldtime hits party. Backed with a superb live orchestra (with wonderful 4 background singers) many artists would perform, with Donna Summer als final closing act. Although the music was ok, the urge to dance (although the show and their hosts asked the crowd several time) was low in the first half of the show. Although there were some nice moments, the music did not hit the stomach. En Vogue was nice but too stylistic and Los del Rios only performed their Macarena hit. Steve Winwood was there too, but his songs were from the sixties and very outdated. And to be honest, the soundmix of the first half of the show was bad. For me in the audience, almost no vocals could be heard. Fascinating were the dancers, and a very nice, theatrical neonlight act.
After the break the second half of the show was far better. Son by Four really warmed the people up and during their performance the crowd finally got on their feet. But I was very surprised to hear the crowd went wild, the noise rised up while Donna Summer was introduced. I never expected such a response from this audience, in which many people were youngsters and did not experienced Donna in her top years! The crowd went excited and after the known thundersound, Donna came up with MacArthur Park, just like in the Live and More Encore! show. What a blast!! Not only the crowd yelled en when crazy, Donna voice bursted in to the Ahoy Concerthall with a power which was not heard before in the show! Now I knew Donna would make her return to The Netherlands an incredible one. This would be good warming up to have her own show here soon! And what a good performance it was.
Although the press stated that 'grandma' Summer was too slow and stiff concerning dancing and moving (what can you expect from a 52 year old singer? An Jennifer Lopez like choreography? Get a life!) all critics saw that she rocked the house and her voice was the most powerful of the whole evening. Her performance was gentle, musically perfect and so personal. It was like we all were invited to her show. She was very relaxed and in every aspect a professional. She mentioned her 'Hostage' days in The Netherlands and this first no. 1 hit. The crowd responded excited and embraced their old time Diva like she never went away from us. It was emotional! Even some spectators in the front row had tears in their eyes!
The next songs were all classics but Donna had a performance break in which she sang Happy Birthday for a girl named Liselotte. In that song she really showed her vocal skills, holding a high note at the end. WOW! That's my diva!!! And yes, she rocked the house even more: On The Radio, She Works Hard For The Money, Bad Girls/Hot Stuff (which she showed some acrobatic skills with the microphone stand... my goodness!) and Last Dance. This classic song was sung by the whole audience and finally it ringed the bell for everyone, the crowd went totally out of their minds.
Time for Donna to come back with her own show! She really warmed the hearts of the Dutch people and not only the die hard (older) fans like me! The people saw a classic singer, a big performer and a real Diva with charisma, parts of Donna Summer which are rarely seen in other artists. A real professional which is capable to get everybody here in Holland and Europe on their knees again!!
Lody van Rijssel
Dordrecht, The Netherlands.
I just want you to know that I consider myself a Dutchie", Donna says, after explaining to the thousands of people in Ahoy that Holland is special to her because it was here that she had her first album out and her first hit single. Funny enough she doesn't seem to be sure that instant if it was an album or a single she had out here: I guess she doesn't think about Lady Of The Night too often.
Possibly for the very first time in her life Donna Summer plays live with a band in the Netherlands. Ahoy is huge and seems an appropriate place for her to celebrate the event. The place is packed, but she is completely comfortable with it. With her on stage is her long-time pianist who traveled along to Rotterdam (the rest of the 15-piece band are pros from the UK), and who has the best seat in the house behind his grand piano. More and more he starts looking like the professor in Back To The Future with his white, long hair, but his service as director is unquestioned.
Her crowd has just before welcomed her with screaming and whistling. She IS, after all, the main attraction of the evening, and has had quite some media exposure the last couple of days in Holland. Finally she appears at the back of the podium, on a catwalk that leads to the front stage. She seems to be looking at us the same way we look at her: curious. She wears the same clothes as yesterday. I didn't see her then, but read it on this forum.
I've waited for 20 years for the opportunity to see her live. The trip to Rotterdam I had been trying to deal with the inner turmoil of nerves and anticipation, saying to myself: “Relax, you’ve seen a lot of artists perform live, you’ve been in Ahoy a lot of times…You’re just another guy going to an ordinary concert. No big deal." Sure…who was I fooling? When I see her en profile walking cautiously over the catwalk, singing that someone left the cake out in the rain, for a while I feel tears at the back of my eyes. I'm not even considering taking my eyes off her. I look from the real Donna to the huge screen where a camera projects her from close up. That figure, those eyes, the way she wears her boots, her upper lip slightly sticking out: it's so Donna!
It is pretty obvious that Donna isn't feeling well. She doesn't dance much, doesn't talk too much, goes over to the piano three times to drink some water, once even in the middle of a song, and she walks around carefully. Her face betrays loss of sleep and a few times it also shows discomfort. All the same she strikes me as courageous and extremely professional. Her voice doesn't falter one microsecond.
I am absolutely, utterly, mortally floored by the sheer power and beauty of her voice. I have been for most of my life, but to see the whole process in working before my very eyes is new and baffling. But I think that you don't have to be a Summer addict like me to notice the power of her voice: how can you miss it? She belts out notes with the same ease that she blinks her eyes, waves her hand or throws a kiss to someone in the audience. Some artists like Joe Cocker have violent spasms all over their body and face when they sing: they apparently need that to produce decent notes. Not Donna. Her face is neutral, has no trace of any nervousness or effort. It comes as natural to her as breathing. Now even more than in the old days, it seems. It's as if she's not even aware that she's singing, as she walks around to explore the terrain and the mood of the audience.
Donna Summer's vocals completely flood the Ahoy stadium when MacArthur Park carries on. We all know the wall-blasting sound of Donna’s vocals, but during this song I'm reminded again of how gentle and soft it can also be, during the part of “There will be another song for me…”. Thanks to the able and large band (with quite a big horn section) MacArthur Park glows with the same majestic spirit in which it was recorded some miles east of Rotterdam, way back in 78.
Some of you may have heard this next song before" she says modestly, without a trace of sarcasm when she starts On The Radio. And she seems pleasantly surprised when the whole stadium sings "Woh-o-o-o-" (back then On The Radio only made it to 20 in the Dutch charts). On The Radio shines this night. The trumpets blow "Ta-Ta-Ta!", the crowd loves the song, and Donna is having a good time with and genuinely flattered by the people in the front, who give her flowers and no doubt other tokens of affection. After the song someone screams “Holland loves you, Donna!” but she’s too far away to hear. I wonder if she knows…
“I dedicate this next song to all the hard working people here tonight!” And there are a lot of them: (1) the camera crew who keep taking shots from all sides for broadcast on Dutch television later this week; (2) the band (who will at the end of the concert pass the test of playing the frantic Last Dance-loops); (3) the 30 or so dancers who will appear a bit later (4) the fans who were lucky enough to get tickets that brought them literally at Donna’s feet and who are busy attracting her attention. (5) Then there’s me trying not to miss any of the multiple stimuli that are before me, and trying to keep my head straight. And, (6) most of all beautiful Donna herself, as she withstands her being not well, and does the show. I think I can tell that she likes to perform this song (Hard For The Money). She also does the funny face right in the camera (Hot Summer Night-style).
For the first time I can see with my own eyes a mysterious thing about Donna Summer: the queen of disco, dance or whatever, does hardly dance. But even stranger I find that she gets away with it! There is something in her tenure that makes dancing irrelevant. "Good wine needs no crown", goes the Dutch saying. Donna doesn't have to convince us that her music is great and danceable by trying to keep up with the latest dance moves herself. She makes music, that's what she does. I've read on this forum all kinds of stuff with the word "Diva" in it. She doesn't strike me at all as a "grand diva" which, in my book, is a compliment. On the contrary, she seems a musician who wants to sing well and make good music. More ordinary than extravagant. More musician than entertainer.
The set list is the same as the night before, after MacArthur Park and On The Radio, She Works Hard For The Money follows, then the Bad Girls/Hot Stuff-medley, and finally Last Dance. It's easy to hear that this band performs better than the one on Live And More Encore. I therefore hope that Heineken will release a CD of this concert: they did that in the past with the predecessor of this concert series, Night of the Proms.
However, I'm slightly disappointed at the fact that nothing of substance has been altered in the arrangements of Donna's songs. True, Radio and notably Bad Girls are closer to the studio originals than I've ever heard (someone in the band is even busy with a Bad Girls-whistle in a microphone!), and benefit from the larger horn section with the elaborate horn arrangements. It’s also for the first time that I hear Hot Stuff played with a horn arrangement!But for the rest it sounds like Live And More Encore, which is fine, but, well, not very surprising. I think it is time to do something new to the arrangements, not for the public, but for Donna herself. There is a routine slumbering in her act and it shows, as if she is a bit bored.
She appears, however, delighted by the background singers, who she spontaneously invites to join her onstage halfway through the set. And during Hot Stuff, when dancers are crowding the stage, she rocks and enjoys the guitar solo and looks at the guitarist, her microphone standard balancing on her shoulder.
Last Dance knows not one, but three reprises. Before the last one she disappears behind the curtains, while the whole party goes on instrumentally.
I must admit that I've never been too fond of Last Dance, but the whole picture is just so convincing and authentic that I'm easily won over. The crowd is ecstatic, the voice of that small woman on stage effortlessly blows the roof off the house and it is so awesome: Donna Summer singing Last Dance is nothing less than Music History. It's like McCartney singing Yesterday, or something. Donna is probably unaware of the significance. To her this is just what she does for a living. I only wonder if she herself knows how well she is doing the job. She should by U.S. law be ordered to pay her taxes only in the form of music. The characteristics of her vocal chords belong in the Guinness Book of Records and medical study & research should be devoted to them. Until then, I think about the beauty of her sound and songs, and I rest my case.