In its place there’s a knowingness that transforms some of these very familiar songs. Alfie was stunning, like the loveliest philosophy lecture you ever heard, Warwick silencing the crowd with her obvious belief in its every word.
Her deeper-voiced, world-weary readings also made more poignant the yearning for absent lovers in Message to Michael and 99 Miles from LA.
Warwick kept the lighter-weight stuff more interesting with frequent melodic change-ups and ad libs. She even scatted on This Girl’s in Love With You and proved she could still hit those ’60s high notes, if sparingly, on I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.
There were some complete musical rearrangements, too. Aretha Franklin’s famous version of I Say a Little Prayer has overshadowed Warwick’s original take but she made a claim back for it with a sparkling, modern R&B version in duet with eldest son and drummer in her band, David Elliott.
That five-piece band offered no surprises for much of this show but came alive for another reinvention, as Do You Know the Way to San Jose? became an epic, bongo-driven samba jam complete with joyful vocal enhancement from Warwick.
A run of straight Brazilian songs showed how technically brilliant her singing remains, as she sang the tricky melodies of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Wave and Waters of March with ease.
Another technically brilliant vocalist came on towards the end in the form of Warwick’s granddaughter Cheyenne Elliott, who showed what young singers everywhere can learn from the icon.
For while Elliott made That’s What Friends Are For explode with a series of huge notes, it was Warwick who made us feel that final tune was being sung about us.