‘Diamond’ Diana Ross marks a half century of ruling the stage | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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‘Diamond’ Diana Ross marks a half century of ruling the stage

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This year’s New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival seemed beset by bad juju: the Rolling Stones begged off due to Mick Jagger’s heart surgery, and Bob Seger bowed out, blaming a scheduling conflict. But Diana Ross, fresh off her “Diamond Diana” residency in Vegas, showed up in a big way. In the first Jazz Fest performance of her six-decade career, she absolutely killed it, holding the audience in her thrall as she ran through 90 minutes of her hits. Though some of the Generation Z set might be more familiar with two of Ross’s children, Black-ish star Tracee Ellis Ross and actor-musician Evan Ross, Diana Ross is inarguably one of the most iconic artists in music history. The velvety-voiced Detroit-born singer-actor famously exemplified the Motown sound in the 60s as a member of the Supremes, and since 1970 she’s led a prolific solo career, racking up even more Top 40 hits. With her talent and charisma, Ross has collected awards and accolades like jewels in a crown, including a Tony in 1977 for her Broadway show, an Oscar nomination in 1973 for her portrayal of jazz singer Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues, an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (as part of the Supremes), a Kennedy Center Honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and not one but several lifetime achievement awards for her contributions to culture. Though Ross hasn’t released a studio album since 2006’s I Love You (EMI), she’s still out on the road—as she said in a video montage celebrating her Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2017 American Music Awards, “There’s nothing more magical [than] the energy onstage.” To see how masterfully she holds sway over an audience, just check out her legendary 1983 performance in New York’s Central Park, when Ross sang to nearly 400,000 people during a downpour. When the skies opened up, Ross simply switched to a cordless mike and urged the crowd to stay calm. As her Jazz Fest set proved, more than 35 years since that rainy night, she’s still got the power to unite an audience and lead them in blissful sing-along reverie. Her stop at the Chicago Theatre is part of her 75th birthday tour.   v

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