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Forever a Diva: Diana Ross Receives Rave Reviews for Sold-Out Hollywood Bowl Concert

Credit: Los Angeles Times

At age 69, Diana Ross is no longer the sylph fashionista who forged the template for modern pop diva-dom.

Mother of five and grandmother of two, she’s still glamorous and beautiful (appearing a good two decades younger than she is) and her voice, though no longer able to hit those glorious high notes, remains remarkably supple.

It’s precisely because her voice is still so wonderfully emotive that her sold-out Hollywood Bowl concert Saturday night was both thrilling and frustrating. After making her entrance with her 1980 classic “I’m Coming Out,” Ross segued into a run of Supremes hits that were performed in full — “Come See About Me,” “Where Did Our Love Go?,” “Baby Love” and “You Can’t Hurry Love.”

Although her vocals were initially a little rusty, she was charismatic and commanding, holding concertgoers in the palm of her hand as they sang along to song after song. This segment of the show also contained one of the emotional highlights of the evening.

As Ross crooned “My World Is Empty Without You,” the screen behind her flashed rare photos and performance footage of various Motown greats, not only artists such as Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, the Temptations and the Jackson 5, but also lesser-known groups as well as session musicians.

It was a generous gesture that went beyond an artist merely rifling through her celebrity-filled old photo albums; it was a reminder of the centrality of Motown records to modern pop culture. And images of the late Supreme Florence Ballard, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell made the trip down memory lane unexpectedly moving.

As the evening progressed and a variety of glittering gowns were rotated, the singer’s voice warmed up and she hit her stride, offering the lovely, jazz-tinged arrangement of “Touch Me in the Morning” that she’s favored in recent years, and then whipping the crowd into a dancing mob with the likes of “Upside Down,” “The Boss” and “Love Hangover.”

But it was her show-stopping take on “Don’t Explain” that brought the audience to a hush, earning one of the night’s heartiest ovations. Her voice was crystalline and full of shading that did Billie Holiday proud.

It would have been a perfect set-up for her to tread into a quieter mode and demonstrate, yet again, what a dazzling jazz singer she’s become. Instead, she and her band immediately rushed head-long into a bouncy “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” that ruptured the moment and seemed to catch the audience off-guard.

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