Guest blog post: Diana Ross in concert at Strathmore
I was impressed with how well Ross has maintained her voice over the decades; most of her singing was as technically solid as it was emotionally alive. And when she had a chance to do some subtle phrasing, especially in a couple of Billie Holiday numbers, the results were remarkably effective. Above all, Ross demonstrated the keen instincts and tireless energy of a true entertainer. She owned that house and everyone in it for 90 action-packed minutes. Cool.
But, hey, don't take my word for it. Here's a guest blog report from one of the world's most devoted Diana Ross fans -- my longtime partner, Robert. This was his fifth Ross concert (the first two were in the days of The Supremes, so that gives him bragging rights for a start), and he was looking awfully happy after this one. I invited him to share his reactions here:
The sold-out crowd at the Music Center at Strathmore last evening was eagerly anticipating pop diva Diana Ross as the lights dimmed and the band began to play. The music was unfamiliar, non-Motown or RCA-era Ross, but the images of vintage Diana Ross and The Supremes albums flashed on a screen behind the band helped to set the mood. When the music led into the first recognizable notes of 1979’s “The Boss,” Miss Ross rose from the back of the stage and the audience rose from their seats (some of them stayed upright for the entire concert, much to the annoyance of folks in the row behind them.)
Diana looked sexy and glamorous -- at least
20 years younger than her 66 years -– in her first of five Bob Mackie-style gowns she wore during the evening. It was an infectious opening number. "The Boss” was followed by “More Today than Yesterday,” one of two selections she performed from her latest studio album, “I Love You.” It was a lively performance.
Telling the crowd that “tonight is truly about memories,” Miss Ross launched into a grouping of Supremes tunes. Unlike in her 1980s-era concerts, which disposed of a Supremes medley in short order, these songs were sung in their entirety for this concert.
Beginning with "Reflections” (vintage photos and videos flashed on the screen behind her), she continued with “You Can’t Hurry Love,” and “Stop! In the Name of Love.” “Love Child” ended this segment too soon. Hearing her iconic, still strong and clear voice singing these much-loved songs united the racially diverse crowd in a true love-fest.
The disco anthem “Love Hangover” led into more of Miss Ross’ solo hits. There was a new gown for “I’m Coming Out,” “Upside Down,” “It’s My House,” “Ease On Down the Road” and “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?”
Another change of costume and another change of mood led into a jazz-blues segment, with “Fine and Mellow” and “Don’t Explain,” two Billie Holiday songs Diana originally performed in “Lady Sings the Blues.” (It’s worth remembering that Diana was nominated for an Academy Award for that film role.) Her heartfelt interpretations of these songs highlighted her versatility as a songstress. The other song from her latest album, a cover of Dusty Springfield’s “The Look of Love,” with a hot saxophone solo adding to the impact of the number, was well received, as were “Endless Love” and "Touch Me in the Morning."
Diana was warm and personable throughout the evening, waving and talking to the crowd, inviting a fan on stage to dance and thanking everyone for being there. She also personally introduced every member of her band by name – and it’s quite a sizable ensemble.
The last segment began with a medley of “I Will Survive” and “Take Me Higher,” two of her hits after her return to Motown. During “Reach Out and Touch,” her first single after leaving the Supremes, Diana did reach out and shake the hands of those lucky fans in the first row. The Theme from “Mahogany” (“Do You Know Where You’re Going To?”) led into “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
The almost 90 minute concert came to a close with a brief tribute to Michael Jackson; a picture of the late singer and Diana was shown on the screen. Although this was touching, this segment should have been a bit earlier so that “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” could have ended the show in a more rousing fashion.
In secure, sweet voice and looking fabulous, Miss Ross proved again that she remains a true superstar. Our music world would be empty without her.
-- Robert Leininger
GETTY PHOTO OF DIANA ROSS IN 2010 TOUR; SUN FILE PHOTO OF THE SUPREMES