Diana Ross, one of the multi-hyphenate superstars left in the world, graced the stage at The Hollywood Bowl on Friday and Saturday night, taking fans from The Supremes’ girl group domination to her 1970s and 1980s solo stardom to the present, sharing new music from 2021 album Thank You. Ross made her mark in one the most successful girl groups of all time, The Supremes and she has appeared in film, she’s been a fixture in pop culture and she’s had an iconic impact on fashion and beauty, shape-shifting her sound from soul to disco to pop.
Stage and screen singer Joshua Henry opened the show with an impressive blend of classics and his own original material. He managed Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess tune “Summertime” with swagger and showcased some serious dynamics and falsetto on Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good”, with a hint of Stevie Wonder in his voice. A few tunes off Henry’s 2021 album Grow were included in the set, the funky “Guarantee”, the R&B/rock tune “Hold Me” and a ballad written for Henry’s wife Cathryn, called “Awe of Her”. After dedicating the song to Diana Ross, Henry performed an effortless soul vocal of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come”.
At the top of Diana Ross‘ “THANK YOU” Tour set, some inspirational words like “Love” and “Hope” flashed on the screen before the superstar took the stage. The crowd clapped and whistled when the 10 musicians and four background singers got to work with Ross decked out in a sparkling orange gown, popping out from the side of the stage, looking like music royalty with the curls flowing. Ross and the band fittingly opened with “I’m Coming Out” and continued with a cover of Spiral Staircase’s “More Today Than Yesterday” with the four horns blasting away with Ross’ voice sounding as sweet and lovely as ever. “Well, hello”, said Ross. “We’re going back to yesterday, the good old days”.
The throwback part of the set brought so much emotion from fans, soaking up “Come See About Me” sounding as timeless as ever, “Baby Love” with Ross shrugging her shoulders with conviction coupled with marvelous background vocals. The power was felt on “Stop! In The Name of Love” with all of the singers raising their hands out and Ross’ voice sounding as pure as ever, and “You Can’t Hurry Love” was absolute musical perfection. The arrangement and instrumental on “Love Child” was incredible and Diana Ross vanished, as divas do for costume change No. 2. The band morphed “Love Child” into an extended Latin/salsa version which was a treat, and the four horns were front and center for a few moments.
Ross was back, this time in a yellow gown for disco song “The Boss” with the horns hitting hard followed by the funky, sassy R&B tune “It’s My House”. The whole place was up dancing for “Upside Down”, with the band sounding super hot and the drums and bass hitting commanding the music. The arrangement (from Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards) was absolutely perfect, with Ross dancing along, waving an arm in the air getting her fans amped up while they sang along. Ross gyrated a bit and after the song said, “If I can move my body like this and I’m 47 years old…” The crowd laughed and she said she’s 78 years old. More cheers, of course.
“Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” was timeless with fans embracing, holding hands and swaying together while phone lights lit up the beautiful Bowl. Diana Ross’ voice soared on disco hit “Love Hangover”, with the background vocalists smashing it along with the entire band, especially the percussionists. This one was blended into a bit of a medley with 1995 house track “Take Me Higher” and then the theme from The Wiz completely surprised the crowd. “Ease On Down The Road” was a huge moment with the Quincy Jones arrangement working overtime in an extended version that gave Ross a chance for costume change #3. The crowd danced and clapped it out and the horns were addicting as hell.
Ross was back in a black sparkly gown looking like a million bucks saying “I want to change the pace and dedicate this to, if he’s out there, Berry Gordy”. She sang a cover of Billie Holiday’s “Don’t Explain” with a sultry and stunning jazz tone, offering solos for every member of the band. She introduced everyone and at the end took some steps forward to be closer to her fans, ending in a pose, like a global icon does with her arms out, stopping time.
“It’s nice to be home”, said Ross. “We just got back from our European show. We did Glastonbury. When I was off for the last three years, I didn’t get to perform but I did what I do best which is record a new record. I wanted to do something as a thank you since you have been with me since I was 16”. She played a few Thank You tracks including dance-pop song “Tomorrow”, the inspiring, tribal-dance tune “If The World Just Danced” and she dedicated the wonderful ballad “Beautiful Love” to her son, Evan, mentioning she wrote it “about a mother’s love”.
Ross’ Frankie Lyman & The Teenagers’ “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” was fun and bouncy, with the horns standing out especially the trombone as well as the guitar, extending her musical palette to 50s rock and roll. During the extended version of this one, the tenor sax went wild and the trumpet followed suit with the two sort of battling it out, feeling a bit like a Vegas show.
Costume change #4 resulted in a stunning white and silver number sparkling for a final bar of “Why Do Fools Fall In Love”. The vocalist gave her fans chills for the Mahogany theme, “Do You Know Where You’re Going To?” The crowd stood up while a Central Park show-era Diana flashed across the screen in an orange jumpsuit and cape for the big, inspiring moment, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. Ross left the stage briefly and returned just in the sparkly portion of her outfit for a cover of Gloria Gaynor’s disco staple “I Will Survive”, with the lights shining behind her while the background singers were announced and the entire ensemble looked like they were living the dream. Diana threw in a couple unexpected bars of DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” and concluded with the ending of “I Will Survive”, wrapping about 100 minutes of show stopping entertainment.