Mariah Carey, The SSE Hydro, Glasgow, gig review: An undoubtedly entertaining audiovisual assault

Show was impressive but meant her voice was only really allowed to shine during the more pared-back ballads

Chris Green
Wednesday 16 March 2016 15:14
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Mariah Carey performing in Glasgow.
Mariah Carey performing in Glasgow.

Mariah Carey knows how to make an entrance. More than half an hour after she was supposed to be on stage in Glasgow for the opening night of her Sweet Sweet Fantasy tour – the first time she has visited the UK for 13 years – some members of the audience were wondering whether she was going to appear at all. “Is she even in the building?” someone joked.

Perhaps it was all done to build anticipation. From the moment that the lights dimmed and Carey appeared in a crystal-encrusted leotard, carried haughtily aloft on a red chaise longue by six musclebound dancers like a modern-day Cleopatra, it was clear that this is a singer who is well aware of her pop diva status – and is not afraid to poke fun at it.

It was just as well, because this being an opening night, there were several technical hitches. Clutching a golden microphone and wearing heels so high that she often had to be physically supported around stage by members of her crew, Carey was soon complaining to the audience that the spray she uses to periodically douse her vocal cords was not working. “You see the abuse I have to endure?” she said with a smile.

Her enthusiastic fans, some of whom had travelled to Scotland specifically to see her on the first of her 23 European dates, did not seem to mind. Whether she was moaning that her mic stand was too low, her earpiece too loose or that the electric fans at the front of the stage were not blowing her golden hair around correctly - “It's just so much more dramatic, don't you think?” - it did not seem to matter. Being a diva is all part of the Carey package, and they loved it.

Now 45, the Grammy-winning singer has 18 US number ones and 14 albums to her name and crammed as many of her hits into her 95-minute set as she could (allowing time for four costume changes, naturally). Songs like “Hero”, “Emotions”, “Always Be My Baby”, “One Sweet Day” and “Heartbreaker” show why she still holds mass appeal and has influenced generations of aspiring female singers – see any episode of The X Factor for proof.

Her singing voice, justifiably famous for its five-octave vocal range and ability to access the impossibly high “whistle register”, may not be quite as powerful as it once was and at times Carey seemed in danger of being drowned out by her eight-strong backing band. Her stage show, an audio-visual assault on the senses, was undoubtedly entertaining but meant her voice was only really allowed to shine during the more pared-back ballads.

A poignant performance of “When You Believe”, Carey's 1998 duet with the late Whitney Houston, provided the night's most memorable moment. Rather than bringing a Houston impersonator on stage, she simply sang along to the original track as the video played in the background – much like the millions of teenagers in their bedrooms that she continues to inspire.

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