Diana Ross at the Orpheum Theatre, 8/28/13

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Steve Cohen

Diana Ross
Orpheum Theatre, Minneapolis
Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Oh, Diana Ross. Even at the ripe age of 69, she's still reminding us that there was a time before Beyonce. Indeed, without Diana Ross, we might not know to call these modern stars "divas."

At her show last night at the Orpheum Theatre, Ross was all diva, and she wasn't shy about it. With four very purposeful costume changes, massive glittery chandelier earrings, a positively regal mane of hair, a bright smile, and flanked by a 12-piece backing band, Ross commanded the stage and the willing audience with all the style and charisma that you would expect of Motown's finest.

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Slideshow: Diana Ross at Orpheum Theatre, 8/28/13

The set was relatively brusque -- a clipped 75 minutes that showcased Ross's genre-spanning career, from a nostalgic opening set featuring Supremes-era hits up through her solo classics. The entire night was a fast-paced journey, and the crowd at the sold-out Orpheum was on its feet for the majority. Strangely, though, while some things could have lasted longer, nothing felt rushed. At this point, Ross knows exactly what her audience wants -- all the hits, a little bit of everything, plus some razzle dazzle -- and she's more than willing to deliver.

Photo by Steve Cohen

Ross opened the night with the appropriate "I'm Coming Out," wrapped up in a striking red gown that was vaguely reminiscent of a circus-red candy apple. "Stop! In the Name of Love" was particularly joyful, with the chorus booming around the theater. During "Ease On Down the Road," Ross spotted a pint-sized kid with moves halfway up the center row and called him to the stage with her. He was passed over from adult to adult in the VIP section before he made it centerstage, where Ross invited him to show the people how it's done. With enough cuteness to cause a toothache, the mini-Michael Jackson (as Ross called him) spun off into a little childlike choreography before Ross thanked him and reined the show back in again.

For a jazzy interlude, Ross changed out of a svelte navy dress (with some daring cut-outs down the side) to an even tighter little black number with a bright neon green feather coat. In this ensemble, she performed a stunning version of Billie Holiday's "Don't Explain," and while it might not have been the high-energy point of the evening, it was the moment when Ross's vocal power was most comfortable. She might not be able to hit the high notes that earned her a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but her voice has a sultry fullness to it that suits the jazz stylings she pulled off beautifully.

There's something about Ross on stage, the way she holds her arms out, lifts them up after a song, raises her beaming face in triumph, like she has just experienced the best moment of her life and is totally fulfilled. As her musicians and backup singers each take their turn for a solo, Ross introduces them jubilantly, dances delightedly, her thousand-watt smile never breaking.

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