Win, Win, Win: Diana Ross In Atlanta (5/22/15)

Diana Ross In Atlanta

There’s just something that feels so right about Diana Ross performing in an outdoor setting. Maybe it’s because so many of her songs reference nature, from the sunny day of “Remember Me” to the raging storm of “Swept Away.” Maybe it’s because her hair and costumes seem tailor-made to dramatically whip around in the wind. And perhaps it’s because one of the most iconic images of the singer is from her 1983 concert in Central Park, when she became drenched in rain while belting out the majestic “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”

Whatever the reason, the setting for the legend’s Friday night concert at the open-air Chastain Park Amphitheatre in Atlanta was perfect, and thankfully the weather gods decided not to opt for a repeat of that famous New York event. Taking the stage shortly after eight o’clock, Diana Ross delivered her hit-packed show to a loud and boisterous crowd, condensing her fifty-year career down to a brisk “Greatest Hits” revue. And although the sun set on a warm and dry day during the roughly ninety-minute show, the singer’s obvious joy and youthful energy proved the dusk of her performing career is still far, far away.

Opening with her 1980 hit “I’m Coming Out” and then quickly segueing into her more recent cover of “More Today Than Yesterday,” Miss Ross immediately proved she still has the unique tone and range that made her voice one of the most successful in music history. While performing a selection of Supremes hits, the singer’s voice sounded surprisingly young (her crisp delivery on “Stop! In The Name Of Love” was nearly identical to the original vocal – recorded half a century ago!), and the high notes at the end of “Love Child” were pitch-perfect. That said, the concert was somewhat plagued with what seemed to be a sub-par sound system; there were songs on which the vocals sounded way over-modulated, and there was at least one instance of screeching feedback.

Nonetheless, Miss Ross plowed through with a smooth and sexy version of “Touch Me In The Morning” and energetic takes on dance hits “The Boss” and “Take Me Higher.” A highlight was one of the best live performances of “Upside Down” I’ve heard in years, which brought just about every member of the audience to his or her feet; fans danced wildly in the aisles and the singer even allowed a fan onstage for a very funny few moments of mugging to the crowd. As always, credit must be given to the singer’s wonderful band and backing singers, who seem to feed off of both Diana’s and the audience’s energy, and particularly brought the house down during an extended version of “Ease On Down The Road” from Diana’s 1978 film The Wiz.

In recent years, the highlight of a Diana Ross concert is always her take on the Billie Holliday classic “Don’t Explain,” and the singer certainly did justice to the song. However, she also seemed particularly reinvigorated while performing a cover of “The Look Of Love” – never a favorite of mine – and it was easily one of her best vocals of the night. She also absolutely killed “Theme From Mahogany” – a song that often seems rushed when sung live and nowhere near as dreamy as it does on the original recording. On the stage at Chastain, Diana really let the song breathe, allowing it to slowly build until it finally transitioned into “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” This is probably the best I’ve ever heard the singer deliver the Mahogany theme in a live setting.

And this brings us to the climax of the concert, during which Diana Ross seemed to let loose in a way she hasn’t onstage in a long time. After the triumphant performance of her first solo #1 hit (turning 45 years old this year!), with the singer nailing her ad-libs and her voice lifting the entire audience to its feet, she and her band launched into “I Will Survive,” boasting a strong vocal and then a surprising interpolation of the 2010 hit “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled. “I love this song!” the singer announced, as she and her band delivered the lyrics, “All I do is win, win, win” in unison. Considering her setlist has seen very few changes in the past decade or so (it’s the same lineup of songs as the last time Miss Ross performed in Atlanta, in 2013), the inclusion of such a modern cover was welcome and exciting. Diana resurrected the song again (telling the band “Play ‘Win, Win, Win’ again!”) after her encore of “Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand).” It certainly seemed like the singer didn’t want to leave the stage, and it was obvious the crowd didn’t want her to, either.

Ending the concert on this interesting mix of a modern hit and a classic one seemed to send a strong message to everyone there — Diana Ross remains as relevant and skillful a performer as she has been for the past several decades.  Even though this concert was essentially the same one the singer gave in the same venue two years earlier, it was easily a more energetic show (despite the sound issues); not only did the singer seem revitalized, so did the audience.

Even with all the stars in the spectacularly clear Atlanta sky, the one onstage shined brightest.

Setlist:

1. I’m Coming Out

2. More Today Than Yesterday

3. My World Is Empty Without You

4. Baby Love

5. Stop! In The Name Of Love

6. You Can’t Hurry Love

7. Love Child

8. The Boss

9. Touch Me In The Morning

10. Upside Down

11. Love Hangover

12. Take Me Higher

13. Ease On Down The Road

14. The Look Of Love

15. Don’t Explain

16. Why Do Fools Fall In Love

17. Theme From Mahogany

18. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

19. I Will Survive/All I Do Is Win

20. Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand)

21. I Will Survive/All I Do Is Win

Diana Ross Atlanta 3

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About Paul

Album-by-album, track-by-track, a look at the entire Diana Ross discography...
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10 Responses to Win, Win, Win: Diana Ross In Atlanta (5/22/15)

  1. Mark Fletcher says:

    Thanks soooo much for that ! I’m so glad that you had a good time ! I’ve seen Miss Ross many times and she NEVER disappoints !
    I hope that she makes it back to the UK SOON !! X

    • Paul says:

      Mark — it was wonderful, and she really was so energetic. The entire audience was remarking how good she sounded and looked.

      • Mark Fletcher says:

        She realy is quite remarkable, isn’t she ? I know that she is enormously successful and I do get that she is credited with a STELLAR 50 year career , but … Sometimes I think that she hasn’t had the critical acclaim that she so deserves ? I hope that she is aware of your work, Paul, because you help to remind us of the Gift that Diana is to The World !
        ( Thank you )

      • Paul says:

        I think you’re 100% correct — she has been overlooked in a critical sense when it comes to her artistry and legacy. That is why I started this site. Too often other aspects of Diana’s career overshadow the music and the voice — and she is remarkably gifted as a vocalist. I hope in some small way my writing about her discography highlights that, and I hope someday she is aware of it too!! 🙂

  2. I hope that her decision to include a much newer song in the finale hints that she might be ready to record again – and try something contemporary! She still has such a wonderful voice!!

    • Paul says:

      Lawrence — we can only hope! Certainly she’s still plugged into what’s popular, with her children being in the entertainment business, and I love that she said she “loved” that newer song. I have the feeling respect for Miss Ross is growing — in recent years she finally seems to be garnering the kind of respect she was denied for a long time. The honorary Grammy helped, and it was great to see the biggest pop star in the world right now (Taylor Swift) pay vocal tribute to Diana on the AMAs recently. I have a feeling if she released something new (like Bette Midler and Aretha have recently), it would get a fair share of attention and critics would really appreciate the quality of her voice.

  3. Peter says:

    Glad you had such a great time, Paul. The upside of Diana not recording is she doesn’t have to wait till songs are ready for the live performances. She just picks from the catalog and off she goes! I saw my 12th Ross concert in February in Brooklyn after having seen her only 8 months earlier at Madison Square Garden. It’s quite a treat to have her in residency pretty much everywhere! She did the same set list at the 2 concerts I mentioned, as well as near identical ones when I saw her in 2010 and 2011, and it’s interesting that she’s settled on these songs. The Boss and Don’t Explain are great additions I never thought I’d hear live. I’m curious about My World is Empty Without You. It wasn’t a #1 and it was not in her set list for decades. It, or Love Child, seems to have replaced You Keep Me Hanging On. I’d prefer to hear Nothing But Heartaches if she’s not going to stick to the #1s. Are you sure she didn’t do Come See About Me? She seems to like that one again, too. And I’m surprised she didn’t do Where Did Our Love Go. My guess is Baby Love is the only song she has done at every concert of her solo career. Maybe Mountain too, although there may have been a few early shows before it was released. Ease on Down appears to be a tribute to Michael Jackson but she actually started doing it during the I Love You tour. I’d much prefer Eaten Alive! That would be unexpected and fun but very unlikely to happen. Let’s hope she never goes back to Muscles. Anyone else think she can hang up Love Hangover and Why Do Fools? I think in recognition of her big time fans she should do a few totally out of nowhere songs each show, like during Return to Love when she did Reach Out, I’ll be There. Imagine how thrilling it would be if she launched into I Ain’t Been Licked, Let’s Go Up, Can’t Give Back the Love or Home? Or make good use of one of the male backup singers and do her “forgotten” hit, All of You! We fans could really put together a hodgepodge concert! Maybe she’ll read our wishes here and surprise us!

  4. James Grattan says:

    Amazing Mr. Paul. I agree about how perfect Miss Ross is under the stars. During the Take Me Higher Tour in ’95 I caught her show at Jones Beach, Long Island. It was for me the best the best of the best of Diana Ross Concerts. She performed most of the album, and played for nearly 2 hours. Definitely a highlight. I love when she slides in those deep album cuts into the set. Some friends saw the Atlanta show that you saw and said she ROCKED:))) Love the pix of you and the tee-shirt.
    friend-to friend,
    James

  5. Pingback: In Memory Of: Michael Masser (1941-2015) | THE DIANA ROSS PROJECT

  6. Pingback: The Best Years: Reflections Of A Diana Ross Concert-Goer | THE DIANA ROSS PROJECT

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