WHAT A WEEK FOR DIVAS!!!!! Unofficial word on the street is that MISS DIANA ROSS has signed on to join "DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES" this season (abc.go.com/primetime/desperate/). You'll recall, that was a rumor last year, but my sources tell me that negotiations broke down. But this year, according to same sources, MISS ROSS is going to be featured in a cool arc on Wysteria Lane. No confirmations on this tid-bit, but if it is founded, you'll know where you heard it first. This marriage made in cul-de-sac, pop culture heaven could be what the doctor ordered to bring viewers back to the once-hottest show on the air and - hey - though Miss Ross' comeback to performing has been received most enthusiastically, perhaps this movement could bring her "CD-buyers" back to more-than-knowing she has a new project out, but actually buying it. Her "I Love You" (www.dianaross.com) is a critically-acclaimed treat, but didn't get the love we've seen her contemporaries Rod Stewart, Elton John, Paul McCartney, and others receive with their golden-years releases. Still, she's generating more fire than her fellow divas out there.
It's this undeniable longevity and resillient cache that makes me wonder how acts who stand on Diana's shoulders - like EN VOGUE - will hold up ten to twenty years from now. Their moment at the top was much shorter than Supremes, though their inner-conflict with roster kept us talking for a bit. Now, though, without any new music on the radio nor an official return of first group member to flee, Dawn Robinson, the question begs: WILL WE REMEMBER EN VOGUE? Well, I had a chance to see them at the Pride In The City opening (www.prideinthecity.com) and I - at least - can report "They still GOT IT!!!!". A simpler show in a no-frills hotel ballroom (Brooklyn Marriott), but the VOICES are there (including Dawn's replacement Rhona). And POWERFUL!!!!! The moves are still PRISTENE and WELL-EXECUTED, though an expectedly rubinesque MAX has now been joined by a surprisingly rounder TERI ELLIS. CINDY, who recently co-starred as DEENA in the stage production of "DREAMGIRLS" in Atlanta (with Jennifer Holliday for the National Black Arts Festival) is - as always (whether pregnant or not) - toned, fit, and beautiful! The girls did most of our songs and threw one of their most recent tunes ("Ooh Boy") from a less-celebrated recent project into the mix. The set list went like this:
"MY LOVIN' (NEVER GONNA GET IT)"
"YOU DON'T HAVE TO WORRY"
"GIVING HIM SOMETHING HE CAN FEEL"
"FREE YOUR MIND"
"DON'T LET GO (LOVE)"
If they come to a chitlin' circuit theater near you, I highly recommend you go see them. This, as we anticipate their mainstream comeback.
Having resistance and reluctance about seeing some of our major artists in the pop tapestry is a hard feeling when you are a fan like me - a fan who "feels" those artists that you do. I have to reconcile in my mind and my heart sometimes that these beautiful creatures can't always be on the top of their game or the game. When I can get right in my mind and heart, I still LOVE many of these ladies - including my DIANA, EN VOGUE, and... LAURYN HILL, who is scheduled to perform tomorrow at Wingate Field (FREE!!!) - (www.brooklynconcerts.com/mlk.html). I am not the biggest fan of the venue nor the schlep it takes to get out there, but I've done it before for Stephanie Mills, Boyz to Men, and others. In that I've got to get myself together for Vegas (packing); a number of errands to do that; and it's been so hot (much too hot for an outdoor concert), I'm not sure. Plus, I must admit, I'm allowing BAD REVIEWS (and images of her looking like a cross between LUCILLE BALL in her ho-bo vaudeville schtick and WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? A LA BETTE DAVIS) that have been bandied about from her other stops on this tour to sway me away from the "alleged" torture. Then, there's that part of me that wants to see and hear for myself (as I did with En Vogue to a pleasant outcome). Not sure what I'll do, but I'll let you know next week. Meanwhile, check out this recent YOU TUBE interview of Lauryn that explains some of her struggles of the past and the present (voice problems) and the seemingly loyal feelings that her fans (and - in this case - the interviewer) have for her: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGdQHoeg2ow
Plus, truth be told, I'm exhausted. THURSDAY was EN VOGUE; FRIDAY was BEYONCE at the Continental Arena in New Jersey; SATURDAY was BEYONCE's sold out tour de force at the Madison Square Garden Arena; and as I quickly write this, I'm going for #3 BEYONCE tonight at the Madison Square Garden. (www.beyonce.com/) I'm really blessed in my industry to be able to get these tickets as last week, Beyonce's publicist Yvette Noelle-Schure wasn't sure she could accommodate me. In the end, she came through (THANK YOU, YVETTE!!!!), but because I was operating off of "laws of attraction", I have dear friends who too have brought me along for the ride - understanding that BEYONCE is my DIANA du jour. And what can I say? Not as much as my dear friend Michael K. Watts, whose website (or work on other websites) I'll be happy to forward to you for his LIVE! from Front Row, which - at this point - is an e-newsletter on which I am certain he will include thorough information about BEYONCE as he invited me to accompany him to the Jersey show. So, I won't review the show as there are many of them out there - Michael's will be the best of that style of recall.
I will simply give my scattered take. I found it to be an AWESOME show. She gives her fans everything they would want... and then some!!!!! The elements of the show - from the highly-stylized themes to the stage and lights (and don't forget those chandelier-inspired costumes) - provide lots of stimulation, but the key is Beyonce and that voice. And when she wasn't lip-sync-ing to a performance track (so she could fulfill her dance requirements), she was SANGING FOR AND TO THE GODS!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just BRILLIANT!!!!!!! As I attended last night's show alone, I didn't feel so alone as Tocarra, Rihanna, Jay Z, and my fellow colleagues Nekesa Moody (Associated Press) and Margaux Watson (Entertainment Weekly) were around me. Also, I had my trusty BLACKBERRY (new feature in my life as of last week) to send Michael e-mails like the following:
* On Friday night in Jersey, she sang "Flaws & All" and as a dancer (portrayed as an Angel) places his arms around her, she sings the last night as a tear falls down her cheek. The stage then softly dissolves to black. On Saturday night, I wrote to Michael: "She just welled on 'Flaws'. No teardrop on cue, but still moving." Here, Miss Beyonce is channeling her inner-Michael Jackson ("She's Out of My Life") or Janet Jackson ("Again"), but those Jacksons nail their tears and choke-up everytime. This gives Beyonce something to work towards as so much of what she's delivering is PERFECTION!!!! SMILE!
* Of course, you all remember this footage of Beyonce falling down in a recent concert on "Ring The Alarm". A quick click to YOU TUBE will allow you to reflect. On Thursday, when Michael and I went, the moment - well-executed - didn't generate any response one way or the other. But on Friday, I texted Michael: "Resounding applause for not falling down the stairs on 'Ring'". It was electric! And supportive, though Michael noted it might have been New York City's cynical way of "reading", but supporting?
* There's a moment during "Irreplacable" where she Diana-like points out that she sees the audience and - individually - she might say "I see you in that pink shirt!" "I see you in your yellow hoodie!". On Thursday, Michael and I were scrambling to see if she was really looking at people or making it up. It was convincing either way. But last night, I wrote to Michael: "She is real!!!! She sees [someone] 'with your orange sign' And I see the sign!!!". It was a cute moment that further sold me on the pro that Beyonce is.
* Also, on "Irreplacable", she closed the song with a flip of the lyric. Melodically she sang "New York! New York! You are IRREPLACABLE!!!" It was a GOOSEBUMPS moment, reminding me that there is no audience like a sold-out New York City audience. None like it. I saw "the magic" of the "sold out New York City" audience on the last night of Diana's failed Supremes tour in 2000 and many other times. It's... it's IRREPLACABLE! really!!!
* Another great tid-bit: When she segues into her "DREAMGIRLS" set, she performs the actual dialogue and song from the staged BROADWAY musical (which is NOT in the movie). It's DEENA - having returned from EUROPE with "THE DREAMS" - and she points out how her hometowns are now "Paris! And Rome! But there's nothing like home!". When I went over my concert reflections with my nephew who too is a big fan and saw her in Atlanta, he presumed Beyonce was mocking DIANA ROSS as he remembered when I showed him a clip of Diana from her 1979 Caesar's Palace concert when -before she performs showtune "I Wanna Be Bad", she says: 'I'm just a hometown girl. My hometowns are Paris, Rome, New York...Some people ask me 'What ever happened to little ol' Diana Ross from the Brewster Projects in Detroit, Michigan?' You know what I say to that? 'Who?'." (See the clip on YOU TUBE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfM2AnJLdOY) Lots of haute entertainment homages in this show -- from Diana to "Chicago". Good going, BEYONCE!
Oh! And to further shout out my friend Michael K. Watts, his LIVE! from Front Row will be your concert and tour information resource on the web. He'll take you LIVE! to the shows of your favorite artists with in-depth reviews, and there'll be a place for you to write your own reviews, too. Get the latest tour dates, tour news and information, and interesting tidbits and trivia from your favorite artists on the road. Periodically, he will offer commentary on a particular topic or issue in the touring industry, and down the road he'll finally pen a Fan's Guide to Concertgoing, a manual he's been writing in his mind - he says - since he was a child. The site will evolve over time as it becomes an online home for music lovers who love the live show, whether they've been to umpteen concerts or never been at all. LIVE! from Front Row will be your ticket, your front row seat, to the magic of live entertainment.
I have had the honor of attending shows with Michael for years. So, I'm delighted to see that you will get a FRONT ROW in his "theater" because - as Susan Taylor says - "... not everyone deserves a front row seat in our lives...", but since it's a concert, like Diana's Central Park show and the subsequent tour "... For One For All...", COME ONE... COME ALL!!!!