She’s mesmerizing, astounding, and accomplished beyond reason. I’m writing about world-renowned superstar recording artist Diana Ross. Ross, conductor Emil de Cou of the National Symphony Orchestra, and The Joyce Garrett Singers gifted a massive Kennedy Center audience an evening surfeit with musical rapture.
Ross’s accolades encumber one’s imagination: Medal of Freedom Award winner; 2012 Grammy Lifetime Achievement winner; 18 number-one song hits; 14 top ten albums; 2007 Kennedy Center Honoree. Ross’s 2019 included a year-long Diamond Diana Celebration, sold-out shows in Las Vegas, and a 75th birthday concert at the Hollywood Palladium.
On this night, Ross’s voice, demeanor, energy, and fashion were flawless. On a night in which Ross missed nary a musical note, the word I use to recount this performance is: impeccable.
The love Ross felt for her audience was palpable. Between songs, she took time out to have the technical staff raise the house lights so she could see and converse with her adoring fans.
After an orchestral, instrumental medley of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “You Can’t Hurry Love,” Ross entered, magnificently, from house left, wearing a resplendent orange dress and singing her 1980s hit “I’m Coming Out.” Her entrance brought an aura of elegance into the room.
Fans were encouraged to sing along with Ross’s “You Can’t Hurry Love.” She followed that song with a thoughtful rendition of “Touch Me in the Morning.” From there, Ross became spiritual with “He Lives in You, He Lives in Me (He Looks Over Everything You See)”.
Ross brought a sexy verve to her 1980 megahit “Upside Down.” She slowed the tempo with the ballad “It’s My Turn,” then sped it up with “Take Me Higher.” Ross was the very flower of femininity in a short version of one of her best hits “Love Hangover.”
The house excitedly reacted to “Ease on Down the Road” from her film The Wiz. After a costume change into a much lighter, tan dress, she sang a tune from her film Lady Sings the Blues, “The Man I Love”; she followed that with another ballad, “If We Hold on Together,” then connected with the audience with late singer/songwriter Frankie Lymon’s “Why Do Fools Fall in Love.”
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” came after yet another costume change, this one into a fluffy white dress. Ross wore a disco-themed red dress as she sang Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” as most of the assembled stood to their feet and moved to the music.
Later, after yet another costume change into a blue dress, Ross took time to sit on a chair and talk to the audience about her upcoming United States and European tours, and resident shows she’ll do in Las Vegas. From there she sang “When You Tell Me That You Love Me” and encouraged audience participation for “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand).”
Perhaps because of her bumpy past with the group, Ross omitted much of her ’60s and ’70s work with The Supremes. There was no “Keep Me Hanging On,” “I Hear a Symphony,” or “Baby Love.” There was a sense that Ross was squarely focused on the present and future.
Diana Ross adores her fans. If this publication awarded stars to performances, she’d receive ten; see her before she leaves town.
Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.
NSO Pops: Diana Ross – Music Book 2020 plays through January 11, 2020, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F Street NW, Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 467-4600 or go online.