- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
After she all but mimed her way through her brief headline appearance at the Platinum Party at the Palace concert this month, all eyes were on Diana Ross’s lips as she sashayed from the wings of the O2 for the London show of her long-delayed Thank You tour. Good thing, too. As her brass fanfare reached crescendo and broke into I’m Coming Out, she flung off her voluminous shawl of curly tangerine frills with such a flourish that her microphone had to be rescued from the front row. One way or another, this Motown legend’s vocals would be a knockout.
Like so many of the great Sixties singers, at 78 Ross’s voice is a bent and battered instrument today, often bellowing through the big numbers and clutching hopelessly for the high notes. But she’s lost not an ounce of pizazz in 60 years and, backed by supportive but not overwhelming troupe of backing singers and a good-time party band, she could still turn North Greenwich into an outpost of boogie wonderland. From the opening run of Supremes hits, including Baby Love, Stop! In The Name of Love and You Can’t Hurry Love, you’d have believed she had her setlist upside down and was playing her encore first. But she was merely brushing aside her vivacious Sixties pop era to make way for a raging disco inferno.
With the first of three gown changes – various sequinned spectacles and one lime green Scarlett O’Hara – she launched into Chain Reaction, Upside Down and Take Me Higher, freshening her throat with a spray she dubbed “Entertainer’s Secret” and encouraging camp dance-offs in the aisles. Though some of the livelier tunes smacked a little of karaoke, Ross’s voice felt reborn on piano-led ballads such as If We Hold on Together and Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To), and positively powerful by the time of her showstopping take on Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, backed with visuals of Ross in her glory days. Whenever she struggled, as on I’m Still Waiting, the crowd carried the melodies, swept along on a communal will to share such classic songs, and the moment, with this still-gleaming star.
Unlike surlier divas, Ross thrived on the audience connection, even pulling up a chair, introducing the arena to her family in the front row and inviting questions ahead of a heartfelt finale of Thank You, the title track from last year’s album which revived her Motown spirit with touches of contemporary carnival pop. Six decades in, she continues to relish her music, and remains ravishing in performance. Glastonbury, where she plays the legend’s slot this weekend, should break out its dancing galoshes.
Diana Ross is at the O2 on June 24 and then playing Glastonbury on June 26