Concert review: Mariah Carey finds her voice but could do with more stage personality

American pop icon Mariah Carey must have kicked herself for naming her eighth tour The Elusive Chanteuse.- PHOTO: UNUSUAL ENTERTAINMENT
American pop icon Mariah Carey must have kicked herself for naming her eighth tour The Elusive Chanteuse.- PHOTO: UNUSUAL ENTERTAINMENT

Mariah: The Elusive Chanteuse

National Stadium/Last Friday

American pop icon Mariah Carey must have kicked herself for naming her eighth tour The Elusive Chanteuse.

The sexy-sounding moniker, named after her 14th studio album Me. I Am Mariah... The Elusive Chanteuse, backfired when she failed to deliver a vocal showcase everyone expected of her earlier shows in Tokyo and Seoul earlier this month.

Out came comments about the "elusive" high notes, as fans were left disappointed and celebrity websites mocked her, calling time on her career. After all, who is Carey, known for her five-octaves vocal range, without them?

So on Friday night at the National Stadium here, the 44-year-old had much to prove after the disastrous start to her tour.

But before she got to the stage, there already much diva behaviour to deal with. Initially, no media reviews of the concert were allowed and the press were definitely not going to take any pictures or videos of her. The stage was also reconfigured off the grass pitch, so that it would not be damaged. It ended up bringing the singer closer to the audience.

When Carey got started with Fantasy, the 12,000-strong crowd was noticeably eager to see what they were going to get.

As she got into the groove of the concert, it was almost as if they were her personal cheerleaders, raising cheers every time she hit a high one.

She went through her songbook of hits, busting out crowd favourites such as Emotions and Touch My Body. Often, as she bantered with the crowd or her backup crew, she would sing to them instead of talk.

In true diva behaviour, a stage hand lifted the singer, who was clad in a maxi dress and stilettos, onto a grand piano for her slower songs.

And to prove that she is still The Voice, she performed a jazzy rendition of Lullaby Of Birdland, which she claimed was unrehearsed.

Throughout her 19-song set, Carey nailed most of the notes; although some sounded a little pitchy, she keep it together, even on the tougher ones such as My All and I'll Be There, a cover of the Jackson 5 song.

With her trademark moves such as the finger to her ear or wagging her finger to the notes, she hit those delicious high octaves with ease, giving fans goosebumps, of the good kind.

There were touching moments when she sang Supernatural for her twins, Moroccan and Monroe who were off-stage. Towards the end of the song, she got them to speak into the microphone - a sweet which had the audience melting, as you can imagine.

But the show's pacing was off because of Carey's three costume changes, which included a gorgeous royal blue ballgown. As she disappeared backstage for more than five minutes each time, she left the entertaining to her band, backing singers and dancers.

The problem was that they were too good - while they were showing off their chops, you forgot that you were actually there to see Carey.

When she was back on, she was not doing very much else. In this day and age where every popstar has some lethal combination of the X-Factor must-haves: a good voice, ace dance moves, ability to play an instrument, a themed background decor with fancy digital effects, a killer stage personality. Carey, unfortunately, came across as bland. The irony was no more apparent than when a fan was shown on screen passionately dancing to her songs - with Beyonce moves.

Her set-up was basic. Her music videos from the 1990s were her introductions to some songs, the stage looked like it had been set up for a school prom with its tacky brown pleats to cover the platforms, and her dance moves - not counting her constant struts up and down the stage - were half-hearted as she left her dancers to do the heavy lifting.

It did not help that Carey would ramble into the microphone, eating her words so you caught just the barest snippets of what she was saying. It could also be that high up in the stadium seats, the microphone sound did not travel very well as she spoke.

While there were pockets of her die-hard fans in the crowd who stood up to dance passionately and knew every word of her songs, it was a largely reserved crowd, many of whom were glued to their seats throughout. Some even left before the show ended.

Not that Carey cared. As she sashayed off stage, she must be just glad to have found those elusive notes again.

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