Diana Ross, Nottingham Arena, Tuesday May 8
They just don’t make stars like Diana Ross any more. Forget your air-brushed Beyoncés and your overwrought Mariahs; this was a bravura performance from the original soul diva. You were simply sucked into her aura, and obliged to surrender to the sheer force of her will.
Despite her advancing years, La Ross was in peak vocal form throughout. On numbers such as Billie Holiday’s Don’t Explain (from Lady Sings The Blues), her delivery was pitch-perfect, and beautifully attuned to the material. Unfortunately, her tendency to perform many of her finest songs as if they were victory reprises – all waves and smiles and shameless grandstanding to the super-fans down the front – tended to narrow her emotional range.
And then there were the fluffs. You Can’t Hurry Love ended in confused disarray, I’m Still Waiting got off to a shaky start, parts of the first verse of I Will Survive were repeated in the second, and Ross totally botched the opening of one of her newer songs.
Apparently, this was all the fault of the Arena’s over-zealous security staff. On two occasions, Diana launched into lengthy diatribes against them, claiming that their constant interventions with photographers in the crowd were distracting her. “Give them their cameras back!” she cried, to loud applause. “As far as I’m concerned, you can take my picture”, she proclaimed, even asking for the house lights to be turned up. “Although I’m not really in love with my hairstyle tonight”, she joked, patting her outsized frizz.
Oddly, these glitches almost worked in Diana’s favour, showing a human, fallible side to the untouchable superstar. And where it really mattered, on show-stoppers such as the immortal Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, her infallibility seemed magically restored. Why, it was almost enough to make you forgive the taped brass section…