Whitney Live Vs. Memorex

Whitney Houston’s been getting some sour reviews during her U.K. tour, but Sony Music has claimed she’s in top form. Who’s correct? Let’s go to the videotape.

Make that digital footage. A concertgoer at Houston’s LG Arena performance in Birmingham, England, April 13 posted YouTube footage of Houston’s finale, “I Will Always Love You.”

Approximately three minutes into the song, Houston’s voice fails her, and not by a modest margin. One can argue that the show was A-OK, but the video makes clear that Houston’s voice was not “off” but, rather, completely kaput.

Comments for the YouTube clip were disabled and, within 24 hours, the video had gone away, having been marked as “private.”  (However, there is a version still available here – advance to 4:30)

However, here’s how London’s Independent described the moment:

“For ‘I Will Always Love You,’ Houston’s voice was tired, but she relished the high note – even though she stopped mid-song and turned her back to compose herself.”

The Guardian was even more kind, describing Houston’s onstage antics as a mix between “the eccentric and the charmingly kooky – but the proof of her sanity was in her singing.”

They are, in all likelihood, generous reviews.

But neither review tops Sony Music’s damage control the day after the concert, when the company issued a glowing press release heralding the singer’s return.

“Whiney Houston is back!” the statement said. “Whitney has showed the world she is back in full force with a strong show to entertain her fans.”

And what exactly did that “strong show” entail? Try 20 minutes of singing, followed by a 20-minute costume change before the aforementioned grand finale, according to reports.

“It was a con, a ripoff. It wasn’t a concert,” said one fan.

Another added the performance was so painful, it necessitated an early exit.

“I had to leave before the end – it was a total farce – certainly not worth the money, time and effort. If she was not up to it they should have offered a refund or rescheduled.”

The scathing reviews, along with Houston’s recent string of cancellations and hospitalization for an “upper respiratory infection,” have led to speculation that Houston is once again using drugs, but the singer has called such reports “ridiculous.”

Nonetheless, it appears the years may have caught up with Houston, and what once was may never be again.

“Time and crack addiction – which she claims to have beaten – have not been kind to her once astonishing voice,” the Sun said. “Houston, we still have a problem”