Ronnie Spector delivers the goods in Mahaiwe concert

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GREAT BARRINGTON — There's always a bit of a question mark these days when reviewing a singer who began his or her career in the 1960s: What will the show be like? Can the headliner deliver the goods? It's probably not fair, but that's how it is.

Well, in the case of rock and roll icon Ronnie Spector, it's more than fair to say that the show was great and the goods were delivered.

Spector, now in her early 70s, was one of the founding members (as Veronica Bennett) of the Ronettes in 1962. The Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer (2006) delivered a 16-song multi-media show that timed out at a little over an hour and 15 minutes at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center on Saturday night in front of a near sellout crowd.

Spector's run with the original Ronettes lasted only a few years, but it was long enough to crank out a bevy of hits, some of which she performed on Saturday. But it was her selection of cover material that was, to this observer at least, the most intriguing aspect of the evening.

Spector, backed by a band of seasoned pros, opened the show with a wonderful version of "Be My Baby," which came off the Ronettes' first album in 1964. A few numbers later, she crooned a version of one of the group's first singles, "So Young," released before the album in 1963.

If one didn't understand that they were seeing a pro on Saturday, these songs made it evident. Some of the Ronettes' songs sung in 1962, pushed the upper register of 20-year-old Veronica Bennett. The 70-plus Ronnie Spector stayed away from some of those numbers to the benefit of the audience.

But we still got a beautiful "Walking in the Rain," as well as "Baby, I Love You."

Early on, Spector moved away from her material, singing a Dave Clark Five classic, "Because," and the Ray Charles hit, "What'd I Say."

"What'd I Say" came with a story.In 1962, the largely unknown Ronettes were trying to get into the famed Peppermint Lounge (home, in those days, to house band Joey Dee and the Starlighters). A manager mistook them for the club dancers and hustled them inside. Where, nonplussed, the trio knocked 'em dead, even using the choreography they had worked out for the song.

Spector spent the time between songs telling tales of Dick Clark, The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and of early gigs. Behind the band, a screen projected shots of Spector singing, sometimes with the Ronettes, throughout the show.

Other covers included the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby" and the Bee Gees' "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart". The highlight of the night, in this observers' eyes, was a poignant cover of the late Johnny Thunders' "You Can't Wrap Your Arms Around A Memory" and Amy Winehouse's "Back To Black." Spector told the audience she was a huge admirer of Winehouse, who died of alcohol poisoning in 2011.

The encore included The Beatles' "I'll Follow the Sun' and another Beach Boys song, "I Can Hear Music."

Reach staff writer Derek Gentile at 413-629-4621.


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