If all you wanted from your Diana Ross experience was a brisk parade of hits sung well and performed by a tight band, then you likely exited the Fox Theatre Thursday night feeling fulfilled and singing “Baby Love.”
But if you were looking for a little warmth, a little spontaneity, a little chatter, a little something to suggest that Ross wasn’t merely going through the motions of songs she’s sung a gazillion times, well, this wasn’t that show.
The indefatigable Ross, who turns 68 later this month, has been on some form of a greatest hits tour since May 2010 – in fact, her last Atlanta appearance came at Chastain in June 2010.
At this return engagement, the thousands of fans in the nearly sold-out Fox greeted the pop goddess with worshipful applause and ovations as she took the stage in a puff of white taffeta over a gold and white sequined dress for one of her many anthems, “I’m Coming Out.”
It was the first of about five outfits modeled during the show, with most of her ensembles remaining in the glittery sequined family (blue, red, gold) and one purple strapless ball gown. Ross has also perfected the art of making an entrance – arms outstretched, shoulders shimmying – as she did after every costume change. (Here are some photos from Thursday’s show.)
Ross’ trademark mound of ebony waves was in full effect, too, as she frequently dabbed at it gingerly (don’t hurt the hair!) while flashing a huge smile.
But everything was almost too perfect, from the dance moves of the stop-on-a-dime five piece band and three backup singers to the tasteful lighting beamed on a set of white curtains decorating the stage. An unscripted humanizing moment or an acknowledgement of the audience – which finally came during the encore – would have elevated the concert from a slick, professional delivery of hits to a musical embrace to remember.
That isn’t to say Ross, who recently earned a Lifetime Achievement Grammy, was devoid of personality. She grinned and waved her hands to the beat of “Where Did Our Love Go” and “Baby Love” – songs that mandated that the crowd remain standing – and brought the sunshine out of the Motown classic “You Can’t Hurry Love.” A couple of guys in the audience also had a brief brush with diva-dom as they hopped on stage for a few quick dance moves during a playful “Upside Down.”
Though she hit a few sharp notes early in the show, Ross settled into the silken groove of “Touch Me in the Morning” and turned on the funk for “Love Child,” recast with an exuberant Latin-tinged coda.
Her strongest vocal moment came after a fun appearance of “Ease on Down the Road” when she returned from another dress swap for the lovely “Don’t Explain,” which nearly silenced the fidgety crowd.
After whirling through Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” – although what strong female singer hasn’t appropriated that one? – Ross returned for an encore and finally spoke at length. She had family in the audience, she noted, including daughter Tracee, who stars in the Atlanta-filmed BET series “Reed Between the Lines.”
As she and the band delved into the fitting set closer – “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” – Ross made a brief mention of the loss of songwriter Nick Ashford (who also co-wrote “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”) before thanking the audience for their energy.
So no, this wasn’t a show focused on interaction, but trotting out the hits – and they are numerous and still glorious – for appreciative crowds wanting a victory lap from one of music’s most memorable female icons.
Set list from March 1 show at the Fox Theatre:
By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene Blog
Follow me on Twitter: @ajclifestyle