Published on March 7th, 2017 | by Craig Silliphant0
Concert Review: Diana Ross (Las Vegas, February 24th, 2017)
Diana Ross at The Venetian in Vegas was billed as a nostalgia show, but if we could have nice things, she’d be saving popular music.
Through the show, I kept thinking the same thing: why do we have pop stars that need studio magic be in key, who need to lip sync in a live setting, when we still have amazing singers like Diana Ross?
Ross was the lead singer of The Supremes, Motown’s most popular group and still one of the best-selling vocal groups of all time. In the 70s, she left The Supremes and started banging out hits on her own. She even wandered into acting territory with an Oscar-nominated turn in Lady Sings the Blues as well as appearing in movies like The Wiz. She’s a goddamn American icon.
I had the chance to see Diana Ross at her Vegas show at The Venetian a week or so back, and I can safely say that she hasn’t lost any of her magic. She looks and sounds better than any of these bullshit popstar pretenders to the throne, belting out songs magnificently and commanding the stage with an almost regal presence.
The first half of the set was the strongest, as she knocked out a blistering pack of hits from The Supremes as well as her own stuff, track after track, daring the band to keep up with her. The audience was mix of what America really looks like when brought together properly, black, white, and otherwise, all singing along with Ross to songs like Love Child, huge grins and love spread across their faces, myself included.
The set suffered a bit in the 2nd half, though that’s not to say it wasn’t any good, just that the pace weakened somewhat as she dug into the catalogue. There were Supremes songs I would have loved to hear and didn’t, as opposed to some of the deeper cuts and filler tracks from her solo career. You could tell which songs the audience went nuts for and which ones they settled back into their seats for.
The band was extremely coordinated and their impeccable timing made everything seem breezy and off the cuff when it was obviously highly rehearsed. However, I had to compare them to seeing Sturgill Simpson play last year, where he utilized his band by becoming one of them. Make no mistake, Diana was in the spotlight. So while her band were incredible musicians, it made it harder to care when they had a solo moment or a little jam session to cover for one of her (many) costume changes. In Simpson’s show, when the horn player did a solo, you forgot that it was a Sturgill show and just reveled in the jam itself. This isn’t really a criticism of Diana Ross, so much as an excuse to talk about how smart Simpson was in what he did with a backing band.
Though this is billed as a bit of a nostalgia show and Diana Ross herself even talked about “memories,” it didn’t need to be thought of as nostalgia (other than the stroll through her disco era, I suppose). But otherwise, these songs, especially the Supremes hits, endure. And Ross still sounds like she’s in her prime when singing them. Something this good doesn’t ever have to be shelved as nostalgia — in fact, now might be a perfect time for Diana Ross, and artists like her, to come back and save popular music. It’ll never happen, of course, but it was nice to dream it while her iconic voice filled my ears for a few hours.