The Las Vegas Strip is packed with billboards advertising Calvin Harris, Steve Aoki, Tiesto and other popular DJs dominating the city's nightlife. Between those and Britney Spears’ ongoing Planet Hollywood shows and planned stints from Chris Brown and Mariah Carey, one could have forgotten the old glitz and glamor that once powered the Strip.
A reminder came courtesy of Diana Ross, who launched her nine-show run at the Venetian on Thursday night.
Appropriately titled “The Essential Diana Ross: Some Memories Never Fade,” Ross kicked off the engagement as any pop icon would. There were shimmering costume changes, a crowd-pleasing set and pristine showmanship.
In what’s become her signature grand entrance, Ross sauntered through the 1,800-seat theater from the back of the house to the tune of her 1980 Nile Rodgers-produced anthem, “I’m Coming Out.” The sold-out crowd shouted and blew her kisses as flashes from camera phones bounced off her turquoise gown and matching tulle overthrow that bounced with Ross' every step down the aisle.
What followed was the tried and true hit parade she’s been known to deliver in recent years.
First, a run through her days with the Supremes, including “Come See About Me,” “Baby Love” and “You Can’t Hurry Love” as pictures of the Motown era flashed on a screen behind.
“Do you guys remember any of these songs,” Ross playfully asked before her 12-piece band launched into "Stop! In the Name of Love."
It was a rhetorical question, of course, as there wasn’t a single song that didn’t echo from the audience singing the words back – a testament to both Ross' indelible contribution to the American Songbook and the sturdiness of the crafted pop numbers of the Motown machine.
Ross breezed through solo offerings, including “Love Hangover,” “The Boss” and “Upside Down,” as well as the covers she’s made famous such as Billie Holiday’s “Don’t Explain” (from “Lady Sings the Blues”) and Gloria Gaynor’s "I Will Survive.”
At 71, Ross is the rare veteran voice who hasn’t lost any of her luster.
It was remarkable to see how much ground she covered in a tight, 80-minute show – and likely why she didn’t waste much time bantering with the crowd.
Between zipping through the girl group pop of her origin, the sweaty disco of her solo career to more smoldering moments – her jazz-tinged arrangement of “Touch Me in the Morning” and smoky take of “Don’t Explain” both managed to hush an otherwise excited crowd – she made it look effortless.
“What would you like to hear?” she asked after the crowd beckoned her back for an encore.
There were a few shouted song titles, but Ross already knew the answer. She slowly unpacked her signature tune “Reach Out and Touch,” with the crowd quickly following her lead as she glided across the stage to shake hands with the front row.
To the younger acts headed to Vegas, take note: This is how it's done.
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