The Best Years: Reflections Of A Diana Ross Concert-Goer

August 30th, 1995.  It was a hot night in Indianapolis, a crowd of about 10,000 people packed into Deer Creek Music Center, an outdoor music venue.  I was 15-years-old, and missing high school cross country practice to be there; my coach was not a forgiving man (he made me run extra laps the following day), but there’s no way I’d have been anywhere else.  My parents were with me; I’d made them stand in line at the local Ticketmaster outlet to get the tickets.  Those were the days before regular use of the Internet, and I’ll never forget hearing the news at school from a friend:  “Paul, I heard on the radio this morning that Diana Ross is coming to town!”

I don’t think I actually believed I would see her until I was there, inside the amphitheatre, the opening music pumping.  Her voice manifested before she did; that iconic, breathless voice filled the air with the words “Take me to that place…higher…”  I didn’t recognize the song — nobody would have, since “Take Me Higher” wouldn’t make the charts until the following month — but the crowd roared when she suddenly appeared, standing atop a short staircase, just as she would in the song’s upcoming music video.  She wore a short black dress, her hair a mass of wild curls.  She rushed down the staircase, her background singers wailing the words “Take Me Higher,” and that 15-year-old boy burst into tears.

That, of course, was the first time I saw Diana Ross in concert; I still have the ticket stub, the tour program, and the concert review from the local newspaper.  Miss Ross performed for two hours that night, running through dozens of her hits and several new songs from the Take Me Higher album; I vividly remember falling in love with “Voice Of The Heart,” “Only Love Will Conquer All,” “I Never Loved A Man Before,” and “Don’t Stop.”  I lost count of the costume changes, but recall her famous “casual” red pantsuit, which she wore for the show’s final number.  Aside from sounding fantastic, Miss Ross was especially funny during the show, stopping mid-“Good Morning Heartache” to put on bug spray.  And there were so many hits I’ve never heard her perform again: “Missing You” and “Muscles” and I think even “Chain Reaction.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about that first concert lately; in just a few days, I’ll be seeing Miss Ross again (for the 7th time), during her stop in West Palm Beach on Saturday.  I was lucky enough to see the Return To Love tour before it ended; I saw her twice during promotion for I Love You, and twice more here in Atlanta, during recent summer tours (read about those shows here and here.)  I almost didn’t buy tickets to the West Palm Beach show; after all, I don’t live in Florida, and I don’t expect the setlist will be any different from the past two times I’ve seen the singer in concert.  She’s not promoting new music and hasn’t radically changed her show, so why go back?

The 15-year-old boy seeing Diana Ross for the first time back in 1995 could probably answer that question better than I can.  I think he was so happy that night — so grateful to be there, to hear the songs, to experience the magic of a seasoned entertainer in her element — that he’d want to see as many Diana Ross concerts as possible.  Life wasn’t always easy; there was a lot going on inside him that even he couldn’t understand at the time.  But that night at Deer Creek Music Center was pure bliss.  That’s the kind of effect Miss Ross has had on my life, and the lives of all her fans, for decades.  Her soothing voice has been our solace, our escape, our motivation.  The least I can do for her is show up and have a great time this weekend.

So I’ll be there Saturday night — and better yet, I’m taking a friend who has never seen Diana Ross in concert before.  Through her eyes, I’ll get to experience the thrill of the show for the first time again.

And this time, I get to do it without worrying about having to run extra laps in the morning.


About Paul

Album-by-album, track-by-track, a look at the entire Diana Ross discography...
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11 Responses to The Best Years: Reflections Of A Diana Ross Concert-Goer

  1. Have yourself a great night seeing the incomparable Miss Ross on Saturday, Paul! She performed in NYC recently and slayed it.

  2. Tom Adrahtas says:

    Hi Paul…I was there that night in Indy also. When she asked for requests I screamed “My Man,” she did it and it was magnificent. Love this article because it took me back to my first show ( the “Evening With…tour in the mid 70s ) and I can truly feel what you experienced. Ive seen Miss R over 200 times now over the decades, I saw the Take Me Higher tour many many times, one of my true favorites. I also wrote the bio A Lifetime To Get Here, as well as the book about her hard-core fans, The Diva and Her Tribe. Thanks for this wonderful article and have a great time at the show!

    • Paul says:

      Tom — how amazing to see a comment from you! Of course I’m a big fan of your books on Diana. Can’t believe you were at that show…I’d totally forgotten she asked for a request!! That show was such a huge moment for me…and TAKE ME HIGHER remains one of my favorite recordings ever. I’m so excited for tomorrow night, and will let you all know how the show is. Thanks again for leaving a comment, it really is a thrill to speak with you!

  3. Alexis Bryce says:

    Paul, enjoy the show! Your excitement parallels mine to a tea… only my first show was in 1968 at the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles (Yeah, I’m much older!). I worried my parents so much; saved all my money and had to purchase two tickets: one for me and one for my cousin who was old enough to take me since I was only 10.

    • Paul says:

      How amazing to see The Supremes in 1968…and then watch as Diana went solo a few years later. Must be amazing memories for you!!! What’s your favorite Diana show you’ve seen over the years??

      • Alexis Bryce says:

        Paul, there were so many spectacular shows. I’ve seen her over a hundred times! But I think the show at Caesar’s Palace Las Vegas where she comes out of the screen (1979) and goes back in at the end.and sings songs off of her latest album, The Boss might be one of her best.. I was there. Also her show at the Ahmanson Theater in LA where she does Bessie, Ethel and Josephine that was also a TV special and earned her a Tony… that’s about a good as it gets! So glad you enjoyed West Palm Beach show. I’m sure she’ll be in California at some point. The set list was first introduced when she returned to doing live shows in the US in 2004. I would think that she and her band are tired of the same sangs. I’d love hearing You Keep Me Hanging On, I Hear A Symphony, Someday We’ll Be Together… How can she not include Endless Love, her biggest hit ever? I’ll keep going even if all she changes are her gowns!

      • Paul says:

        Oh, I am so jealous that you got to see AN EVENING WITH… In terms of her live albums, this is my favorite show, and while I love the TV special built around it, I would love to have seen the show in-person. What amazing memories you must have of these shows over the years. I’ve always wondered why she doesn’t so “Endless Love” anymore! You’re right — her biggest #1 hit, and a song you know the ENTIRE audience would sing along with. Plus, her background singers are talented enough that they could certainly handle the Lionel Richie part if she wanted to keep it a duet.

  4. pnyc1969 says:

    I can’t believe you thought about not going! No, there will never be another Ceasar’s Palace or even Take Me Higher caliber show. The days of that kind of energy, the excitement of newly recorded music, the transition to a new artistic statement–that’s all over and no one should lament it or argue to the contrary. Diana is a legend, an icon and a trailblazer. And we attend these nostalgic, reflective shows to acknowledge that and simply share it with her. These shows, in which she speaks much less than years ago, create a connection with fans that doesn’t need words. The feeling is conveyed that we have been with her for years and, in the sunset of her career, we are comforted to have seemingly many years more hearing her interpret lyrics and caress melodies as an elder statesman of song. I’ve seen Diana live 16 times and almost half of them have been these relatively short, predictable, unchanging shows. The set lists contain some songs I’d rather switch out for quirky numbers she’s possibly forgotten and would certainly never sing. Even some of the hits have disappeared. But what remains feels like a masterclass. She seems to be saying, “This is what I know for sure. This is what I have to tell you.” None of us should think twice about being there.

    • Paul says:

      Well, I’d never miss an Atlanta show…but West Palm Beach is a long drive 🙂 But it was a great day at the beach…and I can’t wait until tomorrow!!

      • pnyc1969 says:

        Worth the drive. And I love Palm Beach. Worth Avenue is so chic! You’ll fit right in (but you’d have more fun in Fort Lauderdale– but that’s your decision.) Can’t wait to read your review. Perfect timing for Gay Pride in New York. Diana always has great timing. She loved it in 1993 at the autobiography signing in New York when I suggested to her that she put “The Boss” back into the show. She said she’d love to do it. Yes, it took 17 years but it happened! Enjoy, Paul. This is a wonderful moment. Take a deep breath and realize that this is the woman who sang “Where Did Our Love Go.” It’s heady when you think of the history. Rather remarkable.

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