I went to the Cupertino concert of the Diana Ross Forever tour at the Flint Center. I got to my seat at 8:10 assuming that Miss Diva would be late, but not too late as to allow people the opportunity to say, "What a diva!" She was, after all, trying to rebuild her reputation after the fiasco that might've been dubbed Dianagate had the media not been sleeping on the job.
I was right. Within five minutes of my having been seated, the band started playing Miss Ross's lead-in music. Then, within a cresecendo of introductory brass, the lady appeared in the spotlight at the top of the stairs. I was so overcome with emotion. I hadn't seen Diana live since reaching out to touch my mother's hand at the Westbury Music Fair so, I took out my camera to take a picture of my first sight of her in 27 years. When I pressed down and took the picture, the flash went off. Also, because the camera's red eye reduction was turned on, three quick flashes of light burst upon the audience of the dark auditorium in addition to the flash. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw this hard-luck woman scuttling up to my aisle seat.
"We don't ever take pictures in here. Never. If we see that camera again, we will confiscate it."
I looked at her - incredibly sheepishly considering I am a man of 6'2 and 200 pounds and she a woman of 5'6 woman, 160.
I cowered. "OK, ok. I'll put it away. I'll put it away."
What remained unsaid, "You volunteer usher bitch! [Heretofore known as a VUB.] I used to be one of you. Why do you care if I take a few shots?"
Actually, I was ashamed. It seemed everyone around me was looking, laughing and pointing. I couldn't even enjoy the opening number, Take Me Higher (an incredibly bouncy dance number from the md-90s chosen, I'm sure, to show everyone that she is more than her hits of the 60s, 70s, and 80s.)
I AM DIANA ROSS AND I AM STILL VALID TODAY.
TAKE ME HIGHER.
|I spent the first song numb, not wanting to move a muscle. I was warming up through the second and third though when I realized that there were hordes of people holding up cell phones. It took me a moment to realize that they were all taking pictures - yet my camera was going to be confiscated! Forget the concert; this VUB was going to pay! I had already gotten the gist of the concert anyway. Diana Ross singing her hits in chronological order. After Take Me higher, she started with Baby Love, moved on to Stop! In The Name of Love and finished her set of full-length versions of Supremes hits with Reflections. She then moved onto the 70s. I will say she looked fabulous though, and she was in wonderful voice. But this formulaic approach to note-by-note renditions of her hits with none of the soul and rhythm that accompanied the originals was sadly lacking in any spontanaeity or passion. She spoke very little to none. She communicated with her audience through her song lyrics - using hand motions to let the audience know that they were her endless love; that they, in fact, taught her 'who was the boss.' She seemed to be looking straight at me when she sang one of my all-time favorites, I Ain't Been Licked.|
|So, having been increasingly bored by the concert, I decided to get my revenge. It was my duty to defy this woman's orders and take some more pictures. But first I had to shut off the red eye reduction and the flash. So I purposefully got up from my seat and went to the bathroom where I did both in the stall. As I finished, someone came in and stood at the urinal so I took a leak in case it was a VUB spy.
I returned to my seat and hid the camera in my ski cap so I would be ready when Diana looked her best. The first time was a bit scary. All of the VUB's seemed to be gone although I couldn't get a great look behind me since everyone was still looking, laughing and pointing from when the bitch initially scolded me and I didn't want to show my face. But I got the shot and another and another and soon everything was good in the world.
|At this point, I realized Miss Ross had entered from stage left with her fifth costume change and was singing Billie Holiday songs. She started singing Don't Explain and someone around me yelled "Terrible." Everyone in the audience started looking around wondering who could be so rude. Her next song was I Cried For You and that same person yelled "Pitiful." Everyone in the audience again was straining their necks to get a glimpse of the rudester. But I was one of the few people who realized this was an homage to Miss Ross not, in fact, a heckle. Ross's Holiday covers were recorded live for Lady Sings The Blues so, on the soundtrack, they are interspersed with sounds from the smoky caberet in which Diana as Billie sings them. Two of those sounds are the words 'Terrible' and 'Pitiful' yelled by another singer who doesn't like Billie. This heckler was actually showing their colors as a true fan.
After her four obligatory Holiday songs, she pulled off an ugly, faux-gardenia headband she had been wearing and got all reflective starting to wonder, "Do You Know Where You're Going To.' The crowd went wild and I got a few more pictures. Again, I considered Miss Ross's career now reduced to singing conventional renditions of her biggest hits as a neo-Vegas act. The Steve and Eydie of the 60s soul generation. It was sad. I had to repeat back to her, "Do you know where you're going to?"
|When she finished this paean to drinking and driving, Diana left the stage and I decided to get closer to the exit to allow for a quick escape from the parking lot. On my way out though I did get closer to the stage for a parting shot. (Take that VUB.) When she came on for her second encore and started singing I Will Survive I decided to take off. I Will Survive, you see, sums up Miss Ross's's career. This classic song from the 70s disco era was originally sung by Gloria Gaynor and beloved for 20 years. Miss Ross took the song to the top of the British charts in 1995 and has chosen to step on Miss Gaynor's only real raison d'etre and take the song as hers. Not because she has survived (although she has, and who am I to say otherwise), but because, at this point in her career, she is selling a lesser version of herself when compared to the Diana Ross with passion and fire with whom we used to sing.|
Maintained and copyrighted 1994-2004 by Michael Teger.