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Concert Reviews:
Diana Ross brings memories back home to Motown

@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

Posted: Monday, August 26, 2013

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DETROIT -- Diana Ross had some siblings in the house on Sunday night, Aug. 25, at SoundBoard in the MotorCity Casino Hotel. But the Detroit native also told the sold-out crowd that "I feel like you're family," too.

The 1,700 or so at the intimate venue (less than half the size of the Fox Theatre, where Ross performed three years ago) certainly greeted and treated Ross like a relative -- and not a long-lost one at that. She was welcomed as a home town hero, the undisputed queen of Motown, and Ross made good on the rapturous reception with an enthralling 20-song, 80-minute tutorial about her stellar stellar career as a pop music icon.

The hits came early and often as Ross, in a red gown and feather boa -- one of four costumes she sported during the show -- started "I'm Coming Up" offstage before striding on to join her 12-piece group (including a four-piece horn section and three backup singers), smiling as brightly as any of the spotlights that focused on her throughout the night. She then loped through the Spiral Staircase's "More Today Than Yesterday" before tearing in a whiplash-paced set of the Supremes' biggest hits, including "My World is Empty Without You," "Baby Love," "Stop! In the Name of Love" and "You Can't Hurry Love."

Ross' own "Touch Me in the Morning" followed in the same upbeat momentum, leading into a tight vamp through "Love Child" and -- after Ross made her first outfit change (to blue) -- dance-party renditions of "The Boss" and "Upside Down." The smooth "Love Hangover" slowed things down just a tad before shifting to a disco vamp that, in turn, fired into "Take Me Higher" and "Ease on Down the Road" from the movie adaptation of "The Wiz."

The pace was worthy of Lady Gaga or Beyonce, but Ross seemed barely winded and sang with forceful authority if not vintage accuracy. She let the show breathe a bit with a "movie" section that included the "Casino Royale" theme "The Look of Love" and Billie Holiday's "Don't Explain," which Ross performed in her film debut "Lady Sings the Blues." Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers' "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" was a crowd-please doo-wop interlude, setting up a sharp pairing of "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" and the soaring "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."

"I Will Survive" brought anyone still sitting in the SoundBoard crowd to its feet, but if the idea of Ross capping her set with a song by someone else (Gloria Gaynor), her encore -- "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)" -- reminded everyone just who's show it was, even if Ross then finished with an "I Will Survive" reprise. But her performance proved she's not just surviving; at 69, and after 53 years of recording, Ross is unquestionably thriving.

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