Review; Diana Ross Newcastle Arena

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The Independent Culture
While waiting for the show to begin, you felt that the maroon- jacketed security men talking urgently into their headsets must be in a chain of command that reached all the way up to Miss Ross herself, directing the pilot as her helicopter hovered above the venue. Even the in-the-round stage looked suspiciously like a helipad.

The entrance, when it came, was hardly less spectacular than if she had crashed through the roof and landed directly on stage. Ross bounded into view from the jaws of a subterranean tunnel in a sparkly grey mini-dress. She responded to the awesome love-vibes of the audience with a regal authority, acknowledging the devotion of each section of the arena in turn. We were all completely, totally, smitten.

A too-brief Supremes melody led into the first bout of direct-action encounters with the fans at the front, as she handed the microphone over to selected admirers for a chorus followed by a hug. Later, she picked out people to dance with her. Watching hefty men holding their breath as they mounted the stage for a brief bout of dance-action with her was strangely moving, as was much of the performance.

Supremely humane, caring and dignified, Ross's attitude is a model of its kind. Buoyed up by almost unbearably sentimental feelings of love and devotion, the show was less a pop concert than a re-enactment of some ancient rite from The Golden Bough. But even on less rarified, levels, the concert was a total triumph. Her voice (never, perhaps, her strongest point) soared. Costume changes (at least five in all) were accomplished in less than a minute; she generously gave time to her band and backing singers, and she looked absolutely gorgeous throughout. At one point, weighed down with gifts of roses-in-Cellophane, and asked to bless yet another small child, she took another full-on hug from a middle-aged woman at the front. "She says she has the same birthday as me," she told the audience. "I asked her if she was older," she said, relaying individual contributions to the rest of the class like any good teacher. "She said no!" The difference between the woman and Ross, both 54, was evident to all, but for a moment you imagined the woman in a helicopter, and Ross going home on the Metro.

Though her message might amount to little more than an endorsement of the powers of deep breathing and positive thinking - the show ended with a thrilling "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and a final boogie-down of "I Will Survive" - Ross has the great star's gift of seeming to incarnate quite naturally the feelings of her fans. Every single person in the audience left feeling better than they did when they arrived. Diana Ross is a true star.

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