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Concert Reviews:
Mariah Carey Balances Singing, Showmanship At Palace

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, September 10, 2006

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AUBURN HILLS -- Say what you will about playing it safe, but Mariah Carey was careful to hedge her bets on Saturday night at the Palace.

"They kept telling me, 'Don't say Detroit. Say Michigan,' " the pop diva, playing her first-ever full-fledged concert in the metro area, told the crowd of 13,000-plus. "I'm trying to say both. We've got to talk about this later."

A sense of place, however, wasn't as important to Carey as a sense of self. In an introductory video, she spoke of living a life that's been like a roller coaster -- full of ups and downs, get it? -- and how it's given her "a deeper kind of faith" and the realization that "if you don't get on the ride, you don't experience the adventures."

Over the next 100 minutes, however, Carey's sojourn was that of a virtuoso vocalist existing in a pop and hip-hop world -- succeeding far more often than not but occasionally letting herself be sold short by some of the perceived strictures that come with being a multi-platinum artist.

The conflict at Saturday's show -- part of Carey's The Adventures Of Mimi: The Voice, The Hits, The Tour trek -- pit her primary appeal as a singer, all seven-octaves, against the seeming desire to be a skin-bearing queen of hip-hop soul in her own right. That meant five costume changes into some highly unflattering, midriff-baring outfits and stiff production numbers on the two-tiered stage in which six dancers twirled around a clearly ill-at-east Carey during "It's Like That," "Heartbreaker" and "Shake it Off."

Fortunately, most of the show eschewed such trappings and let Carey's voice carry the show. She perceptibly loosened up in the second of the show's four "acts," delivering strong versions of "Vision of Love" and "Fly Like a Bird." And her stint on a second stage situated in the middle of the Palace floor -- which Carey entered and exited with the help of a carefully deployed security batallion -- was the night's strongest segment; besides performing "Fantasy" and "Don't Forget About Us," Carey also responded to a request on a fan's sign by tossing in a short a capella bit of "Melt Away," a nicely unscripted moment that injected some personality to the evening's script.

There were plenty of diversions throughout the night. Rappers such as Jay-Z, Mase and the late ODB made taped "guest appearances" on the video screens -- which were effectively used to accent the show as well as beam close-ups of Carey. Backup singer Trey Lorenz previewed some songs from his upcoming debut album during one of Carey's outfit changes. And she took time to hype her souvenir lip gloss, directing the spotlight operators to shut down while she demonstrated the lighted mirror that was part of the packaging.

But the show's most notable and memorable remained Carey's vocal performances, whether it was snippets of "I Wish You Knew" and "Thank God I Found You" or full treatments of "Honey," "Hero" and "We Belong Together." That will always be the strength she should lead with -- in Detroit, Michigan or points beyond.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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