Diana Ross / Rhonda Ross (concert review)

Diana Ross / Rhonda Ross – Rose Music Center – 8/3/16 (concert review)

The lady that put the “D” in “Diva” still has it

Legendary vocalist Diana Ross entertained a near-capacity crowd under a hot, midwestern sun at the Rose Music Center in Huber Heights. “I’m Comin’ Out” made a perfect opener; that funky number from 1980 got everyone to their feet.  Then, she went through a rapid fire set of early Supremes’ smashes – “My World is Empty Without You,” “Baby Love,” “Stop in the Name of Love,” “Come See About Me,” and “You Can’t Hurry Love,” all featuring Ross’ still-soaring vocals.  Her band featured a baritone sax, and you realize just how crucial this instrument was to her early singles.  An extended version of “Love Child” had a Caribbean feel and gave Ross a chance to switch costumes.

The wardrobe change also signaled a different direction – the remainder of her set featured songs heavy on funk – “The Boss,” “It’s My House,” and especially “Upside Down” really grooved in a way you might not expect from a lady who turned 72 in March.  The latter song gave the band a chance to stretch out and warranted another change in costume from Diana.

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” really gave her an opportunity to show that she can still bring the heat – this was the highlight of her show.  Ross also grabbed several interesting cover songs – Spiral Staircase’s “More Today Than Yesterday,” Frankie Lymon’s “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” and the surprise show closer, Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” – a statement of purpose for her long career.

Diana’s daughter, Rhonda Ross, opened the show with a high-energy set that spotlighted songs from her just-released In Case You Didn’t Know album.  “Nobody’s Business” really sounded great in the live setting, while “Summer’s Day” featured a snippet of the Emotions’ hit “Best of My Love.”  “Breathe” was slinkier than the version on her record, while “Drumbeat of Life” paid homage to Marvin Gaye at the end.  She cleverly wove elements of “Killing Me Softly” and “Uptown Funk” to add some familiarity.  There was a magnetic quality to her storytelling that really made you want to listen.  This truncated set left you wanting an entire concert of Rhonda Ross on her own.

Although the entire show lasted less than 90 minutes, there was an energy that emanated from the stage that few classic artists still possess.  Despite the heat, Diana smiled throughout, constantly thanking the crowd for their support over the years.  And, for those keeping score – four costume changes in an hour, each containing a color-coordinated fan she used to beat the heat.  —Tony Peters