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December 13, 2018

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Review: Diana Ross is a soaring angel in ‘Memories’ debut at Venetian

2003-2006 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand

Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com

Diana Ross performs during the 2004 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Click to enlarge photo

Diana Ross.

Click to enlarge photo

Diana Ross.

Diana Ross at Paris

Diana Ross performs to close the Monster Retailer Awards held at the Paris Hotel Friday night. Launch slideshow »

Megastar Diana Ross was so warm and friendly soaring as an angel with her powerful, magical and mesmerizing voice at Wednesday night’s premiere of her show “Some Memories Never Fade” that the Phantom of the Opera would have awakened from the dead and returned to his Venetian theater lair.

Miss Ross is a perfectionist when it comes to music, and she was absolutely perfect on opening night. Her new show is a bare-bones, no-distraction production. There are no acrobats or athletes leaping across the stage, no stripped-down sexy dancers, no real video mapping.

This is all about the purity of great hit music and lyrics: a brilliant band, a talented trio of backup singers and center stage the incredible and impeccable Miss Ross. Why would you need anything else if you have radiant musical happiness flowing from the stage?

The applause was nonstop, as was her jukebox-styled show of wall-to-wall hits, medley after medley of them. Miss Ross was relentless as she charged through so many familiar songs. I lost count as she segued from one to another like a nightclub DJ mixing track after track in the 80-minute show.

She could not have performed “Endless Love,” “Take Me Higher,” “Upside Down” and “I’m Coming Out” any better. She kicked off the night singing “I’m Coming Out” while walking down an aisle through the audience to the stage. It was proof positive of her pitch-perfect mega-songbird status. A flick of her massive curly hair even produced oohs, aahs and applause.

As did her wardrobe changes: Gown 1 was a shining, two-piece turquoise mermaid creation; Gown 2 was a more traditional black sequined outfit with fluorescent neon green faux-fur wrap; Gown 3 was red sequined but with a purple-mauve-plum, floor-length faux-fur wrap; and Gown 4 was bright canary yellow and gold with matching faux-fur wrap. For most of the gown changes, she had a matching fan to cool her down mid-song.

Miss Ross was a speeding locomotive with her hits, yet held the audience in the palms of her hands as she went from “Look of Love” with her tenor-sax player into “Lady Sings the Blues.” My only constructive criticism for Miss Ross? Allow cameras because at 71, you are looking fabulous.

She got as enthusiastic as the audience: “You never know what’s going to happen on an opening night. It’s April Fools’ Day, right? But this was great, high energy onstage and in the audience. I feel your incredible love, and I hope you feel mine.”

Miss Ross isn’t known for curtain calls. When the show ends with its finale, the audience is normally left in its standing ovation as the house lights come up. But on Wednesday night, Miss Ross changed the rules because of the wild cheers and returned with her band to the empty dark stage.

Her “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” was a barnburner — highly impressive, exciting and emotional. Even she was moved by the response. It was so incredible, I thought for a moment she’d break down slightly teary eyed. She did what she so rarely does, making physical contact with her fans as she walked along the edge of the stage pressing the flesh, shaking hands and high-fiving the audience that had almost rushed the stage.

It was a night of sensational singing and marvelous, majestic music. Three members of our Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns, who play Monday nights at Lounge at the Palms, joined her total nine-piece band and blew everybody away with their backup and solo renditions. They were spectacular. Her trio of backup singers (two men and one woman) were just as great. When Miss Ross needed a stage break, she counted on them to fill in for her — and they did so perfectly.

I went to this show, I’ll confess, with mixed feelings but wound up loving every moment. Mainly because I felt happy. These were yesteryears hits that have stood the test of time. This is not thuggery, four-letter-word, filthy rap music. This was delicious and pretty, super-soul music that had the audience dancing in their seats and the aisles.

“For my shows, I have selected all of my favorites, and the favorites sometimes change with each performance as requested from the audience. All my songs are really about love, ” she told Vegas DeLuxe via email before opening night.

Miss Ross came and conquered. She might well have feared this Las Vegas run because of her three-year absence here, but I believe she convinced herself based on the audience’s love fest Wednesday night she’ll be back several times over the next two years. For now, she plays the former “Phantom — the Las Vegas Spectacular” theater at the Venetian this weekend April 3-4 and then again April 7-8, 10-11, 15 and 17-18.

If you want to see and hear the magic of Motown come back to life full blast, this show is for you. You will leave the theater singing and dancing. I think even the Phantom realized that he’d turned over his theater to an angel and also was singing and dancing last night. It was that kind of effect that Miss Ross achieved when she put a spell of vocal magnificence over us.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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