Taking on the legendary Whitney Houston in a spectacular tribute

Whitney Houston tribute at Devonshire Park Theatre
Whitney Houston tribute at Devonshire Park Theatre

How do you feel about tribute bands and tribute singers? Can they ever match the original? Make your own minds up when one of the really great exponents plays the Devonshire Park Theatre on Tuesday October 30.

Belinda Davids is in town.

Belinda has forged a career as the voice of Whitney Houston. That in itself takes some nerve, but Belinda has the credentials and reputation. Currently finishing a tour in the US, she gave me the inside track on her career.

In The Greatest Love of All: The Whitney Houston Show, we are promised a dazzling spectacle of pop at its finest, and a fun, heartfelt and uplifting homage.

Accompanied by a live band and dancers, Davids performs over two hours of Houston’s most loved pop hits - and critics have been blown away with her “jaw-droppingly similar” voice.

This battered and sceptical old reviewer hasn’t seen Belinda live, but I’ve heard enough to be a convert. Close your eyes and listen, and surely that’s Whitney’s voice? Everything is just right, from the orchestrations to the costumes to the voice quality and the utterly authentic delivery of the numbers.

The show includes 20 of Houston’s most popular tracks from the full span of her career, including I Will Always Love You, I Wanna Dance With Somebody and I’m Every Woman. “I couldn’t leave anything out!” exclaims Belinda. “The problem with Whitney is that every song is iconic. We have truly authentic replica costuming, and full-scale lighting and effects: it’s a kind of total immersion. It is a spectacular concert experience in its own right of course. But above all I wanted a show that honours Houston’s memory and celebrates her musical legacy. It’s not about me, it’s about Whitney.”

In 2017, she won the hearts of millions of TV viewers on BBC1’s Even Better Than The Real Thing, and went viral on Facebook with over 12 million views. All the media attention led to an invitation to appear on stage at Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theatre - where Whitney herself had played to rapturous audiences.

“Wow. It was a really intense experience, and honestly a quite nerve-wracking occasion. But I guess that kind of occasion is daunting and inspiring in equal measure. I gave them Whitney’s I Will Always Love You and received a standing ovation. The Apollo in Harlem is known as one of America’s most critical audiences, but I count the experience as a career highlight. “

The UK tour gives Belinda one of the craziest schedules you could imagine. Possibly compiled by someone on the other side of the planet, it takes Belinda to 25 venues in five weeks - from Carlisle and Edinburgh to Swansea, Sheffield and Southampton - but not necessarily in that order.

“Oh, I’m fine with that,” smiles Belinda. “Yes, we do see quite a few trains and boats and planes, but fatigue honestly never features. As soon as I get on stage and we strike up the first number, the adrenalin takes over. You cannot do a show like this on half-power.”

A newcomer to Eastbourne, I am guessing? “Yes, totally. But that is the enjoyment of touring. I know you’re on the coast and, as it happens, I have a rare free day on the morning after the Eastbourne gig. So I’ll be out there filling up on your sea air! In fact, the smaller places on a tour are always the most rewarding for getting your health and sanity back.”

“A vast auditorium can be awesome, but it can also be impersonal. In a smaller venue we still deliver all the effects, but I think a performer can often relate better when the audience is close. Hello there, in Row A or Row C - this next number is for you.” By Kevin Anderson.

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