Las Vegas Sun

May 20, 2024

CONCERT REVIEW:

Forget about the glitz and glamour; all Mariah Carey needs to do is to sing her songs

Mariah Carey Park MGM

Denise Truscello

Mariah Carey performs Friday, April 12, 2024, on opening night of her “Mariah Carey: The Celebration of Mimi Live in Las Vegas” residency at Park MGM’s Dolby Theater.

About five songs into the premiere of Mariah Carey’s residency Friday at Park MGM, the first time I had seen the Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter-actor-producer perform live, I leaned over to my wife.

Mariah Carey at Park MGM

Mariah Carey performs Friday, April 12, 2024, on opening night of her “Mariah Carey: The Celebration of Mimi Live in Las Vegas” residency at Park MGM’s Dolby Theater. Launch slideshow »

“Mimi doesn’t dance a lot,” I whispered into her ear, using the nickname that family and friends had given to Carey years ago.

My wife’s reply was short and direct.

“She’s Mariah Carey. She doesn’t have to dance.”

And she was spot-on.

Despite all of the glitz and glam, the eight backup dancers, trio of backup singers, four musical accompanists, stage adornments, lights and props, the undeniable star of the “Mariah Carey: The Celebration of Mimi Live in Las Vegas” is Mariah Carey herself.

Carey didn’t need to dance. She didn’t need to make multiple wardrobe changes to show off another designer gown (couturiers Gaurav Gupta, Sophie Couture, Falguni Shane, Laura Basci, Robert Wun were among the fashion houses represented throughout the evening). She didn’t need to don another wig to offer yet another different look during the 90-minute show.

All she had to do was sing those songs everyone has grown accustomed to over her 30-plus year career.

And Carey took her audience on a chronological journey of songs through her career, with an emphasis on “The Emancipation of Mimi,” the 2005 album that produced four hits, has been certified platinum seven times, and won Best Contemporary R&B Album of the Year and was a nominee for Album of the Year at the 2006 Grammy Awards. Carey described the album to Rolling Stones as “my favorite body of work that I’ve done.”

But back to the journey: Carey set the tone opening with “Vision of Love,” the Grammy-winning debut single off of her 1990 eponymous debut album, “Mariah Carey.”

From the start, she sashayed her way across the sprawling Dolby Theater stage, making her presence known to the sold-out room. Fans didn’t have to wait long for Carey to hit the whistle register — the extremely high note that’s helped make Carey famous. She teased it in “Vision” then unleashed it in the second song of the evening, “Emotions,” the title hit off of her 1992 album. The audience stayed on its feet for another cut from “Emotions,” this time the up-tempo “Make It Happen,” a song that highlighted the chanteuse’s willowy voice.

Next up, Carey — joined by backup singer Trey Lorenz — slowed it down for a riveting version of a medley blending another “Emotions” cut, “Can’t Let Go,” backended by the Jackson 5 hit “I’ll Be There.” Carey introduced the medley by recalling singing both songs “on a program called ‘MTV Unplugged.’ … I always loved it, so when we were planning this, I thought, ‘We should do it.’ So let’s see where it goes.”

Suffice it to say, it was one of the night’s highlights in a night of highlights.

She followed up the short medley with 1994’s “Dreamlover,” which she dedicated to the memory of the great Aretha Franklin.

During an extended reprise of the song, and while Carey exited the stage, videos of a young, coquettish Mariah Carey were displayed, rekindling memories from a different era.

Carey returned to the stage, announcing, “Here is a song basically about looking inside my life,” and then launching into “Hero,” another cut from the 1994 album “Music Box.” Then she went off script with Bad Finger’s 1970 megahit “Without You,” a song she’s covered in concerts overseas dozens of times but hasn’t performed in concert in the U.S. since a 1995 show at Madison Square Garden.

That led to three hits from her 1995 album, “Daydreams,” the peppy “Fantasy,” “Always Be My Baby” ­— which she co-wrote with singer-songwriter-rapper Jermaine Dupri — and the sultry “Looking In,” a song she had only performed in concert once previously, in 2013 in New York’s Central Park.

Carey next appeared seated on a sofa situated on a riser at midstage for a well-received medley of songs from her 1997 “Butterfly” album, including the title track, “Close My Eyes” and “My All,” among others. She followed up with a mashup of “Honey” and “Heartbreaker” from 1999’s “Rainbow” album.

And all of that, ostensibly, was a warmup for the final nine songs of the evening, all from “The Emancipation of Mimi,” the album released exactly 19 years to the date of the opening of Carey’s Park MGM residency. The nine include two cuts Carey hadn’t performed live since 2006, “I Wish You Knew” and “Your Girl,” plus the album’s debut hit, “It’s Like That,” along with chart breakers like “Shake It Off,” “Don’t Forget About Us” and “We Belong Together,” which topped Billboard’s Hot 100 for 14 weeks and was subsequently earned the moniker of song of the 2000s decade by Billboard.

The 55-year-old songstress closed out the show with “Fly Like a Bird,” a song that brought the “Celebration of Mimi” to a fitting end.

— “Mariah Carey: The Celebration of Mimi Live in Las Vegas” continues at Dolby Theater at Park MGM at 8 p.m. today, Saturday and Wednesday; also April 26 and 27, July 26, 27 and 31, and Aug. 2, 3, 7, 9 and 10. For ticket information, go online to ticketmaster.com/MariahVegas.

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