Donna Summer is a diva.
Just ask her. Then again, even if you don’t ask, she’ll remind you — more than once.
“It’s not easy being a diva,” she told the crowd at least three times during Sunday night’s show at Chastain Park.
A faux marching band trio helped Summer make her grand entrance to the tune of “The Queen is Back.” Yes, the queen of disco is back. But then, did she ever leave? While her 90-minute show has the sounds of the ’80s era, Summer has certainly kept her finger on the pulse of the new Millennium.
The singer, who turns 62 this New Year’s Eve, puts on a show that feels pretty hip with male dancers, hi-tech background screens that help tell the story of each song, and fairly new dance tunes that you would dance to in today’s night clubs.
At first thought, you wonder why she’d want these three young male dancers tagging along. Then you remember that “I’m On Fire,” a track from her 2008 album “Crayon” did reach No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Songs chart. More than that, anyone who makes a living making dance music is allowed to have a few male dancers. Plus, they just feel right in the show.
And in case you’re wondering, yes, Summer did sing the erotic “Love to Love You Baby,” with the sexual moans and all. Though she did offer an early apology to “church folk who might be offended. But it’s a song that made me famous,” she said. No one appeared offended.
Throughout the night, Summer kept the crowd engaged with humorous conversation, making fun of herself (”Not until I became a diva did a find a use for these big lips”) and her fans, who at one point cheered her wardrobe change: “Cheer for yourselves because you did pay for them.”
Summer gave the audience a few nice surprises if you haven’t seen her in the last few years, including “Stamp Your Feet” and “Sand on My Feet,” which she called a sweet beach song that was written during a visit to Miami. The song, which featured Randy Mitchell on acoustic guitar, seemed more influenced by Nashville than Miami.
The queen of disco, known for tunes that start out as ballads and end with fans dancing like crazy, did not disappoint. She took the crowd down memory lane with “On the Radio,” “Dim All the Lights,” “She Works Hard for the Money,” “Hot Stuff,” and “Bad Girl.”
In one of the night’s most tender moments, she shared how she and the late Michael Jackson had the same favorite song — “Smile.” “When God put me here on Earth, my assignment was to bring him glory and you joy.” With that, she gave a moving tribute to Jackson with “Smile,” as his photos lit up background panels.
She ended the night with the highly anticipated “Last Dance,” as the encore. Moments after she had left the stage, fans kept applauding and calling for her to come back for one more. But with a song like that, isn’t it best to just call it night, and just let its sound linger in the night air?