Liked About Diana’s I LOVE YOU Concert:
1. She sang only two songs recorded after
1981—which was a clever way for the diva to
comment on everything she's recorded for the
past twenty-five years. In other words,
adoring fans: ignore everything after 1981.
Alas, the two recently recorded songs that
she did sing were from her new CD “I LOVE
YOU” and both were eminently forgettable and
both occurred at the end of an
overwhelmingly intense concert. So, I
snoozed and fell into a half-sleep: in order
to conserve energy for the performance’s
finale—even though, at the time, I had no
clue as to just how THRILLING that finale
was going to be.
2. There was no annoying talk or
fake-chatter with the audience to break the
concert’s momentum. The show propelled
forcefully forward and stopped only when it
was over. The closest she came to banter was
a remark during "It's My House" when, after
doing a few bumps and grinds, she commented
to someone in the first row, "Not bad for an
old broad, huh?” a throwaway comment
reminiscent of the Diana Ross from the
Seventies. Back then, if the diva worship
threatened to get out of hand, she'd do
something to tone the show down, to bring
the audience back to earth.
And Ross could easily have relied on
nostalgia to introduce "Where Did Our Love
Go." Previous to that smash record, the
Supremes had released eight flop 45s, a
string of failures unheard of at Motown—and
one that earned the girl-group the moniker
"The No-Hit Supremes." But then, on April 8,
1964, they recorded "Where Did Our Love
Go"—and the rest was history. Not that
sentimental memories were Ross's concern at
this concert. If they had been, she might
have noted that “Where Did Our Love Go?” had
been recorded almost 43 years ago to the
day. She could have gone all syrupy on us,
flicking away a tear or two, as she recalled
the long gone good old days… Instead, she
attacked the sexy but plaintive hit with a
new aggressive energy. Lachrymose, this was
not—nor was any part of this show.
3. The musicians—a keyboard, two drums and
two guitars—created a pared-down sound very
much like the funk group Chic. The scratchy
guitars galvanized the hits and gave tired
duds like "Ease on Down the Road” and "Love
Child" an excitingly new life. Seriously,
the songs sounded newly minted and fresh—and
all the better for knowing that Niles
Rodgers was in the audience.
4. The concert's main focus was the estate
of Diana Ross's voice: rich and thrusting on
her defiant (and definitive) "The Boss," and
sensitive and elegant on ballads like "Don't
Explain" and "Touch Me In the Morning."
Whenever she sustained a note of
particularly shimmering beauty, the crowd
5. And yes, folks, she changed gowns—more
than a few times. This is show biz, after
all! Ross has always utilized multiple
costume changes. The audience wants it that
way. After all, it’s not as if she were
doing a lieder recital. And yes, even that
hair is theatrical—and it looks great
6. Her voice. Yes, her voice has changed
during her more than forty years of stardom,
but she still knows how to work it, and at
this concert, she completely avoided any
treacly warbling. The thin, high-pitched
chirping that she has often resorted to was
(And also, for the record, Ross never tried
to sing like Billie Holliday. In the film
Lady Sings the Blues, her vocalizing is part
of a dramatic performance. Ross suggests
Billie Holliday's voice without ever
imitating it. And at this concert, Ross paid
homage to Billie Holliday by singing two
signature pieces with a ravishing beauty of
tone that, once again, honored both the
music and the Lady most often associated
7. The audience ranged in age from about 7
to 77 and was a delightful composite of
Asian, African-American, Caucasian, male,
female, gay, and straight. Her appeal is
much broader than I had previously thought
and it was incredible to see teenage girls
dancing (as was everyone else) to her
8. And then those songs… Ross was not doing
your garden-variety "oldies" concert.
Instead, these songs are pop classics, and
she gave them the respect they deserve.
Think about it: has there ever been a time
in the past forty years when "Baby Love" has
not been emanating from either a store, a
disco, a radio, or a taxi cab?
9. Her very "becoming" modesty. As we all
know, Ross could have gone on and on and on
about the accolades she's received during
her career (for example, that special Tony
she was awarded in 1977 for her legendary
performances at the Palace Theatre).
Arguably, Ross was the first black female to
achieve superstar status in any area of show
business, and she did it at a time when
music made her legendary ascent possible.
Let’s face it, black women today owe a lot
to the Diana Ross of the Sixties Supremes.
Oh—and also—Ross never mentioned the
Supremes—or, for that matter, any of the
original members by name. She sang these
songs as if they were hers and hers alone.
10. Which brings us to: The Finale. In the
past, Ross has tried that old disco chestnut
"I Will Survive" but never before has it had
this impact. She tore into the number with
full-bodied voice and made it an
electrifying musical commentary on her own
survival. And right when the performance
could easily have ended, the lights changed
and the musicians started playing more
excitingly than ever, whereupon Ross pointed
at her audience, giving her another a
standing ovation, and shouted with
determination, "YOU WILL!"
And there I was, thinking: Yes, thank you,
Diana. I needed to hear that. We all did.
The woman will survive and so shall we all.
Then, waving to her standing audience, she
shouted, “Til next time.”
I’ll be there. We all will.