It should be easy to be cynical about a Diana Ross show. You should be able to roll your eyes at the videos of her as a young chanteuse, chuckle at the costume changes (each one more sparkly than the last), snipe at the brass section’s choreography. But when you’re there, in the glare of the sequins, surrounded by the still-crystalline presence of her unmistakable voice, the snark just doesn’t work.
From the beginning of her show at the Wells Fargo Theatre on Tuesday, Ross made it clear that her half-century in show business has made her a force to be reckoned with. She hustles through a set with an admirable professionalism, rarely speaking between songs, keeping introductions of her (pretty amazing) band members kind but brief, and pulling selections from her catalog with the broadest possible appeal. Whether belting out “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” in the puffiest, pinkest dress, rocking a cover of “I Will Survive” in gold sequins and sky-high platforms, or grinning her way through Motown favorites, Ross’ devotion to her craft is self-evident.
But it was during “It’s Hard For Me To Say,” when the video shifted from a Supremes-era Ross to a picture of Michael Jackson, the Jackson 5 years, when it became clear that cynicism was not an option at this show. Not because of MJ’s passing or the poignancy of the photograph, but the realization that the picture may have been taken by Ross herself. It was the understanding that she has been there since the beginning. She was there when Motown was born, there when disco died. She sang “I’m Coming Out” when serving openly in the military would have been unthinkable, and was here, decades later, singing it the day Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was resigned to the history books. For someone my age (over 25, under 50), it seems like Diana Ross has just always been there, like the Parthenon or the moon. And after the hit-laden, pitch-perfect, ridiculously fun show last night, I can’t help but hope she always will be.
Cassandra Schoon is a Denver freelance writer and regular Reverb contributor.