Feb 24 2010

Press Reviews for Mariah's L.A. Show

< > Mariah Carey Wows Crowd, Pokes Fun At Herself At L.A. Show
--By Ryan J. Downey, MTV News

Early into her set, Mariah Carey smiled widely as she surveyed the packed Gibson Amphitheatre on night one of a two-night stand. "You sound very, very festive," she told the audience. She picked up a glass from a table full of beverages. "This is water — don't get it twisted, please. Now that's not to say there aren't other things on the table. This is L.A. And I have been known to have a sip or two in L.A."

It was one of several moments of feisty self-effacing humor from the chatty singer. Throughout the night, her between-song banter felt light, honest and steadfastly lucid, in stark contrast to recent well-publicized bouts of public babbling. Her intimate connection with her fans was palpable from start to finish.

The evening began at 9 p.m., right on schedule. "I'm usually much more late and people criticize me for that," she pointed out later in the show. "But tonight, in Los Angeles, was I on time?" The crowd roared in the affirmative. A rousing rendition of "Shake It Off" set the tone for what felt like a celebratory evening.

The band and backup singers stood toward the back of the stage on high platforms, resembling a 1950s dance-show set, which kept the focus on Carey. The crowd sang the "I will hunt you down" refrains back to her, loudly, during "Touch My Body" and kept the participation going throughout the night. Backup dancers disappeared and returned in varying configurations throughout the show.

"I had forgotten about this song the whole tour and I don't know why. Funny I should forget it, considering the title," she laughed as she introduced "Don't Forget About Us." She stayed dressed in a form-fitting short dress with a flared, tutu-like bottom for the first portion of the night, occasionally using a white mic stand. There were a couple of wardrobe changes into other form-fitting attire.

Mariah took a gulp of champagne (and later shilled for her own upcoming brand) while lying seductively on a chaise that seemed to have been brought out expressly for that purpose before singing "Always Be My Baby." It was the most symbolic moment of the evening, somehow embodying the many facets of her appeal in a single action: beauty, sexiness, luxury, playfulness and talent.

At one point she complained about a chair being placed too far from the fans — the electric fans. "Don't you know that my hair naturally blows just like in all of the videos? That's real," she joked.

She asked for hair and makeup people to come onstage and touch her up, saying, "I know it's a diva moment, but I don't care." But the vibe of all of the antics was coy and knowing, like a joke within a joke that all of the crowd is in on. "I went to beauty school, so I can do this, too. Five hundred hours! The teacher hated me."

A few tasteful and well-timed moments of seriousness notwithstanding — "Fly Like a Bird" was dedicated to her late bishop, "Angels Cry" to the people of Haiti — the evening rolled out with a relaxed vibe and the hits kept flowing, including "Make It Happen," "It's Like That" and "Up Out My Face." A male backup singer took over for a cover of Michael Jackson's "Rock With You". "The 'Heartbreaker' remix was my favorite part of the night," a 20-year-old fan named Manny told MTV News.

"I wrote it for my husband, who is not here tonight because he had business," Carey said before "The Impossible," the night's only reference to Nick Cannon. "Whatever. Maybe he'll surprise me one night." Mary J. Blige was also absent for the text-message-drama song "It's a Wrap," which didn't stop Carey from belting out the entire number herself. "Give it up for the jet skis in the video!" she shouted during "Honey."

Carey thanked Jermaine Dupri for co-writing "We Belong Together," which she said he told her was Billboard's Song of the Decade. It also holds a high honor in the heart of at least one concertgoer, Tiffany, 21. "It's my favorite song from Mariah. It's my favorite song, period," she told MTV News.

Carey returned for an encore, "Hero," before unleashing the crowd into the night to fend off bootleg T-shirt vendors as they wandered Universal City Walk.

A remixed version of Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, called Angels Advocate, was due in stores this month but pushed back to March. Carey mentioned during the show that it might be pushed back again.

Live review: Mariah Carey at Gibson Amphitheatre

--By Mikael Wood, The L.A. Times music blog

A nostalgic Carey shows today's divas how it's done in a soaring performance. Lady Gaga and Beyonce, take note.

Halfway through her highly entertaining show Tuesday night at Gibson Amphitheatre, Mariah Carey stood onstage in a sparkly gold cocktail dress and waxed nostalgic for a (more) gilded age.

"Remember the video with the jet skis?" she asked wistfully, referring to the James Bond-inspired clip for her 1997 hit "Honey," which the singer's seven-piece band had begun playing. "They don't make those anymore."

Nor do they make pop divas like Carey anymore. In an era of high-tech performance-art opacity (think Beyoncé or Lady Gaga), her transparent blend of vocal talent and goofy charisma seems appealingly old-fashioned. Tuesday's concert, the first of two at the Gibson in support of last year's "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel," felt at times like an attempt to break down the kind of mystique that's grown up around Carey's successors.

Which didn't mean it lacked for production pizazz: Elaborately costumed in a cloud of honey-colored taffeta, the singer made her entrance upon an enormous swing that lowered from above the stage; later, during "Angels Cry," a pair of dancers performed a Cirque du Soleil-style aerial number while suspended from a flimsy band of cloth.

Yet rather than presenting these elements as immovable facts of nature, Carey took every opportunity to expose the business behind the show. Before an effervescent version of "Always Be My Baby," she invited her hair-and-makeup team onstage for a mid-set touch-up, then decided she could do the job just as well herself. "I went to beauty school," she said, powdering her nose. "Five hundred hours in 11th grade."

For "My All," Carey sat in a chair, explaining that her shoes were too tight; within seconds, though, she'd discovered that the chair had been placed out of range of the several industrial fans on hair-blowing duty. So while she waited for a stagehand to fix the problem, the singer took a sip of what she promised was water from a nearby champagne glass. "If you see me drinking from the bottle," she confided, "you know we've got a problem."

What made all these disclosures so endearing, of course, was Carey's singing, which 20 years after her emergence with the melisma-soaked "Vision of Love" has lost little of its uncommon power.

At the Gibson, she sounded as convincing in such up-tempo material as "Touch My Body" and "Obsessed" -- the latter a highlight from "Memoirs" -- as she did in sturdy slow jams such as the gospel-inflected "Fly Like a Bird," which she dedicated to her late pastor.

Carey closed the concert with a skyscraping rendition of her signature 1993 ballad, "Hero," though not before introducing the song with one more dash of early-days nostalgia.

"I wrote this song a long time ago," she explained, adding that people keep asking her to sing it "because it's helped them through difficult times and stuff."

Carey's biggest hits may be behind her, but her marriage of the plain-talking and the profound remains one of pop's prime pleasures.

Mariah Carey finds her groove at Gibson

--By Kevin Flinn, The Orange County Register

To her legion of adoring fans, Mariah Carey is an honest-to-God angel, a beatific voice sent from above for their delight.

And Tuesday night Carey quite literally descended from the heavens. As her seven-piece band thumped out a disco-tinged intro, the singer gravitated from the Gibson Amphitheatre rafters on a swing, clad in a ruffled ballroom gown (which lasted all of one song before its bottom half was ceremoniously torn away). Backed by six male dancers in gray three-piece suits, Carey immediately launched into "Shake It Off" and "Touch My Body."

Four songs in, the star seemed to find her footing, belting out her whistle-register wail at the end of "Don't Forget about Us." Almost as if asserting her authority, Carey's higher-than-high-pitched trademark vocals whipped the Gibson crowd into a frenzy –- and as she settled into the Motown-sounding "Fly Like a Bird," her hesitation disappeared.

Carey's comfort level only seemed to rise throughout the remainder of her nearly two-hour set. Her super-tight backing band jammed on "Make It Happen" as she disappeared into an elevator built into her set's massive tiered structure, emerging in a long, sparkled halter dress that allowed her to cover more ground and interact with more of her screaming, exalting fans.

What's remarkable about Carey is that even after 20 years of commercial success and self-proclaimed diva status, she can still connect with each member of a 6,000-capacity venue due to her undeniable sincerity, self-effacing wit and girlish giggle, all of which help bring out the woman behind the tabloid fodder. She's endearing on a personal level, imminently humble and gracious, and very, very likable, even to those who aren't die-hard Mariah devotees.

The show's visuals reached their apex next, as a male dancer ascended on a trapeze, smoothly whirling and spinning above Carey (à la Pink at this year's Grammys) as she sang "Angels Cry." Midway through the song he was joined by a female acrobat, and the two swayed and spun as they clutched gracefully onto one another, a breathtaking display of aerial artistry that was the hands-down highlight of [the] production.

Pausing for a tongue-in-cheek "diva moment" so that her hair and makeup crew could attend to an out-of-place strand and apply more powder, the singer then sipped from a flute of her own forthcoming Angel Rose champagne (a "shameless plug," she admitted) and playfully acknowledged her tipsy appearances. "I'm mostly sticking to water tonight," Carey lilted, "but when someone pours you a glass of champagne, it's rude not to accept."

Accept she did, just before sparking off her 1996 Grammy-nominated hit "Always Be My Baby," during which she proved that there's nothing lacking with her voice. Her pipes remain prodigious, even if she was nearly drowned out by the sold-out crowd singing at the top of its lungs. Here (and during the encore of "Hero") the audience not only sang along but even aped Carey's hand gestures and movements -– telling gestures that revealed this all-walks-of-life crowd's dedication to their idol.

While Carey eventually found her proverbial groove, her dancers again stole the show during "It's Like That," cavorting about the stage's top tier clad in red-and-black get-ups, the whole number a fitting homage to Chicago. The six (sometimes seven) males and three females in this troupe were flawless all evening, mixing gymnastic-style stunts with classical, jazz and hip-hop moves that provided much-needed visual stimulation.

Carey dedicated "Impossible" to her husband Nick Cannon, who might have been a bit apprehensive had he seen the most rugged of the male dancers standing alone to the singer's left, gyrating suggestively to raucous applause.

Another costume change followed, allowing backup singer extraordinaire Trey Lorenz his moment in the spotlight, leading the band through a shimmering version of Michael Jackson's "Rock with You." Carey then re-appeared in a short black dress for "Love Hangover/Heartbreaker."

Heading into the homestretch, her band was never better or more focused than on the R&B-flavored "Honey." Delicate piano notes floated atop a syrupy, synthesized bass-and-drums groove as Carey turned to the ceiling and belted "I nee-eee-eed it!" It was a marvelous moment of symbiosis, of singer and band melding seamlessly, even if her musicians were perched 15 feet above her head.

"It's a Wrap" and "My All" preceded a final wardrobe change (this time into a long, glamorous black dress) and Carey's most impassioned performances of the evening, the kiss-off singles "Obsessed" and "Up Out My Face," both from last year's "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel". By this point in the set, the singer exuded confidence, reaching into her upper register and filling even the spacious Gibson's upper loge with rapturous applause.

The set closer, "We Belong Together" (Billboard's "most successful song of the 2000s") and her encore both evolved into rousing singalongs, proving Carey's luminous star quality, incredibly deep catalog (she performed only eight of her 18 chart-topping singles) and mass appeal. During that finale, all of her fans were on their feet, belting out lyrics with their (imperfect) angel.

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