Diana Ross has done her best to halt time. Impeccably coiffed and made up Tuesday for her 90-minute set at the Gibson Amphitheatre, the regal entertainer still manages to look much like she did at the height of her career, rather than her age of 63.
Her stage show was pure old-school glitz, from the floor-length red-sequined gown she wore as she entered to the strains of “I’m Coming Out,” to the Motown standards and ’70s pop hits she unfurled on a light-bedazzled stage that could have been a Vegas supper club.
But she can’t freeze time any more than the rest of us mere mortals can. When she acknowledged this, confessing before her final song that her father had died earlier that day, her power as a performer was confirmed.
The revelation was as well-choreographed as any of the evening’s perfectly timed moments, segueing into the ballad, “I Love You (That’s All That Really Matters),” from her latest album, “I Love You,” a compilation of classic and contemporary love songs.
But there was nothing artificial about the collective gasp that rose from the audience at the news. Ross really seemed to want to share her grief with her fans. Having worked so hard to maintain her perfect facade for them for so many years, Ross seemed to indicate that fans do have a place in her heart right alongside her family, who joined her onstage.
The rest of the night, however, was all about the show. That meant gratifying both those who came to adore the former Supreme and those who were there to worship the gay icon Ross has become. As her more exuberant fans danced, waved their arms, and flirted with Ross, the singer sassed them right back.
The playfulness with which she approached her own legend was what made the night so much fun. While the quality of her voice varied, and some of the musical arrangements delivered by her eight-piece band were schmaltzy, Ross was always in full control of her primary instrument — herself.
She worked the room during versions of “Baby Love” and “Where Did Our Love Go” that softened their original snap but still had infectious swing, and got the crowd to vamp along to “Stop! In the Name of Love.” Amid three costume changes, she delivered ’70s staples including “Love Hangover” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Ross managed to render the usually dark Billie Holiday song, “My Man” into a sweet tribute to Berry Gordy, who was in attendance, and orchestrated her role in the Holiday biopic “Lady Sings the Blues.”
No matter how many years pass, or what personal losses she suffers, Ross remains an icon, thanks to her ability to deliver the show her fans long to see.