Diana Ross Verizon Theatre, Grand Prairie Thursday, February 26, 2015
Talk about flawless. If you want to know what makes an absolute, no doubt about it, bona fide diva, look no further than Diana Ross. She's been at it since before the Beyoncés of the world were born -- hell, before some of their parents were even born. But that doesn't matter, because as one of the most influential figures in R&B and disco music, Ross' infectious music transcends generations. Last night at Verizon Theatre, she proved that very fact yet again.
The show was horribly undersold, with most of the upper deck entirely unoccupied. Those with less-than-stellar views of the stage could be seen migrating closer and closer between every song, which is generally not the kind of environment in which you want to see a living legend. Faces in the crowd ranged from well-dressed older women in furs, to a gaggle of young men who stood singing throughout the entire performance, to fabulously dressed drag queens.
Still, even though bodies didn't pack the Verizon Theatre completely full, the thoroughly fierce spirit of Ross and the people who love her music was almost overwhelming. Ross opened the show with "I'm Coming Out," and so she did, in a ridiculously extravagant, fluffy chiffon overcoat. As she worked through some of her classic hits, like "Baby Love," and familiar covers like Spiral Staircase's "More Today Than Yesterday," it was beyond clear that Ross's 70-year-old voice still has that quality that made it special in 1959.
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Though the set started off a little shaky vocally, it became stronger as the evening progressed. Engaging and entertaining performances of "Stop! In the Name of Love" and "Come See About Me" were all met with an entire audience singing, clapping and chair-dancing along. Ross was clearly feeding off the energy of the crowd, repeatedly stopping the music to tell the audience just how much she loved them. It was, of course, entirely reciprocated.
On a performance of "Endless Love," Ross' classic duet with Lionel Richie, she was joined by a backup singer named Lamont with an incredible vocal range. Her back-up singers and band were both uniquely talented, which made the occasionally too-long music interludes that were necessary to facilitate Ross' costume changes mostly enjoyable. And the costumes. Well, they were definitely worth the wait. There may be no person that can pull off a floor-length lime green feather coat more exquisitely than Diana Ross, especially when it's on top of an equally exquisite head-to-toe sequined gown.
After concluding her set with a high-energy cover of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," complete with jazzy interludes and an incredible solo from a female back-up singer, Ross took a request from the crowd to play "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)," her debut solo single after leaving the Supremes. It was almost as if she was honored that the audience had taken such a deep dive back into her catalog, and the performance felt grateful rather than gratuitous.
It always feels like such a privilege to see a musician who has been so important to the development of pop music, especially when they have been able to make a life-long career of entertaining audiences with songs that are almost a half-century old. Seeing an artist like Ross is as much a history lesson as it is a good concert, and after this performance, it's easy to see where our current musical divas like Beyoncé and Mary J. Blige grew from.
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What was most refreshing, though, was how much fun Ross was having performing songs that she has been performing for decades. It would almost seem like a slog to have to sing "Stop! In the Name of Love" for the five millionth time, but there was no indication that Ross was bored with these tunes. Instead, she managed to fill them with an exuberance almost equal to the performances that you remember watching on TV as a kid.
Diana Ross is the original diva, and her continued commitment to making audiences happy after almost 60 years on the road is commendable. Even if you weren't lucky enough to see Ross in her musical prime, she still puts on one hell of a show.
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