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Concert Reviews:
Mariah Carey rewards fans' wait at the Fox Theatre

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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DETROIT -- Mariah Carey knows how to keep her fans waiting -- four years between albums, for instance. Or nine years between appearances in the Detroit metro area.

And on Friday night, March 8, at the Fox Theatre, a nearly unforgiveable 80 minutes after posted start time, long enough for the glitter to start falling off the outfits of some of Carey's fans, aka the Lambs.

Fortunately, however, Carey largely rewarded their patience with a smoothly paced 90-minute Caution World Tour show that may well have been the best she's ever played in these parts.

Carey started out nearly two decades ago as a shy and reluctant live performer, not even touring in earnest until after the release of her third album. Various career and life dramas made her someone to approach with, well, caution, but on Friday she presented herself as well-settled and confident, a robust performer who, aside from the truly un-divinely diva late star, has a genuine command of the stage -- especially venues such as the Fox, which would seem truly too small for somebody who's sold more than 200 million records worldwide and has 18 No. 1 hits.

Spiced with medleys and five efficient costume changes, Carey's show was flashy without being overdone. The "heavy lifting" was done by a series of visuals on screens behind and flanking the sides of the Fox stage, and by four dancers -- one of whom roller skated around Carey during her cover of the Cherrelle/Robert Palmer hit "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On," another who dressed in drag during a lengthy and messy version of "Heartbreaker." The seven selections from her latest album, "Caution," blended well with her hits.

And fans were certainly pleased to hear a deeper cut like "You Don't Know What to Do," which Carey and her five-piece band mashed up with "Emotions."

The medleys were effective in keeping the show moving, too, as "Can't Take That Away," "Fantasy" and "Always Be My Baby" slipped nicely into each other -- the latter featuring an on stage cameo by Carey's seven-year-old twins, Moroccan and Monroe. And later on she bunched up "Never Too Far," "Last Night a DJ Saved My life," "Loverboy" and "Didn't Mean to Turn You On."

Carey, who even had her "glam squad" tend to her on stage between songs at one point, was in powerful -- and, most importantly, live -- voice all night long, and the show benefitted from a commitment to heart rather than precision. There were rough and tumble moments to be sure, but those made Carey's performance a flesh-and-blood alternative to the bloodless sheen we get from some much of the younger breed of pop divas. She capably lit into a few of her trademark dog-whistle falsettos, but Friday's most memorable moments were muscular renditions of "My All," "Vision of Love" and the encore pairing of "With You" and "Hero."

It remains to be seen how long Carey will make us wait for another Detroit area show. But Friday's stop should sustain the Lambs and other fans for awhile -- and bring 'em back enthusiastically the next time.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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