Dickey -- aka Rose Royce -- who headlined the first Cali-R event at
unstable's new Grove Theatre on Saturday night and provided a triumph
almost equal to the Premiership-winning achievement of the team that
the woman from Biloxi, Mississippi, has adopted as her own since moving
to this country.
It was a truly memorable night, attracting a full house, with visitors from
places as varied as Oxford, Northampton and even France: first Cali-R
show of the year, new home and an entertainer at the top of her game.
the entertainer in a moment, but first the Grove -- what a
fabulous asset it is for the town. Let's have no more misty-eyed talk about
the late Queensway Hall: much loved and lamented "the Civic" was and
is but the Grove is NOW and a place to make Dunstable proud.
there were some complaints that the dance floor was too small, but
this didn't seem to bother the majority of people who stood shoulder
to shoulder singing along with Ms Dickey's hits, and then danced their
feet off into the early hours to promoter Sid Hudson's sounds.
it was a fantastic experience, too, to watch the show from the "gods" where
my metaphorical hat was tipped to those brave souls grooving away
high above the auditorium.
didn't they have reason to groove! Gwen Dickey is a fabulous performer,
who looks stunning and whose voice just gets better with age. Backed
by two keyboards, guitar, bass and drums, she poured out the hits,
and from the first notes of Is It Love You're After to the last chord
of the reprised Car Wash encore, she took the audience with
the hits and they got them -- Ooh Baby, Wishing On A Star, Love Don't
Live Here Anymore, First Come First Served and flicks of I Wanna Get
Next To You and Do Your Dance, plus Ain't Nobody, the Chaka Khan song
she took into the charts with KWS; songs that she must have sung a
million times, but can still perform with soul and passion.
the stage she said: "I just want to give a big thank you to Sid and
Jacqui Hudson] and to the audience for the love you've shown and to
everybody at the Grove Theatre for having us." Let's hope it's not too
long before she returns!
Sid Hudson said: "It's been a fantastic, exhausting night.Gwen was
the perfect act to start the new Cali-R era at the Grove. We had some
great times at the Leisure Centre but it's good to be back at a state
of the art venue. We had a couple of teething problems, but I think
the audience reaction said it all tonight."
Meanwhile, one of the function rooms in the upper floor was doing big business
as a funk room, with Louie Martin and Jellybean providing the sounds.
Suffice to say, it, too, was packed, but with one big advantage over
the leisure centre version -- it was air-conditioned!
the artists who have played Cali-R dates, Gwen Dickey is probably
the most approachable. After she and the band dined at Il Millefiore
in Church Street, she sat in the green room before the show
and chatted happily with the Cali-R backroom team, admitting to being a
Manchester United fan since she sang at half-time in the Charity
Shield against Liverpool a few seasons ago. "We're gonna be lifting that
Premiership trophy tomorrow," she gleefully and correctly forecast.
months touring England and the Continent, the Dunstable date was to
be her last before she flew back to America for a holiday with her mother.
She also admitted that for the first time in her career,
nerves had "got to her". She said: "I don't know what happened but this
morning I found myself having a panic attack. It was like 'I can't do
this. Oh my God I've got a show tonight and I can't do it!'.
I calmed down and now it'll be like it always is -- I'll get nervous
just beforehand but once I sing my first song I'll be fine."
So did "having two names" bother her? "No, it's never been a problem.
Rose Royce was formed by our producer Norman Whitfield [his first project
after his work with the Temptations], he insisted that I should be Rose.
Even now people still say 'Oh Rose, can I have your autograph?'! But
it never held back my career that maybe some people didn't realise that
Rose Royce was really Gwen Dickey."
to round off a busy evening Gwen met one of her greatest fans, John
Currie, 66, from Grove Road, Houghton Regis. John and his wife,
Ivy, loved all the Rose Royce records, but, sadly, Ivy died in December
after suffering from motor neurone disease. Accompanied by his daughter,
Wendy, John came along to the show and was thrilled to have photos taken
with Gwen backstage. Said John: "We loved her records, and when I
heard one particular one tonight I got choked up."
who is press officer for the local motor neurone disease (MND) society,
thanked the Grove
management for providing tickets for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor
Dreamcoat as raffle prizes for the society.