Entertainment » Music

Diana Ross - Live In Central Park

by Phil Hall
Contributor
Tuesday May 15, 2012
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On July 21, 1983, Diana Ross appeared in an open-air concert in New York’s Central Park that was broadcast live to a global television audience. Alas, Mother Nature was not a Motown fan and the diva was forced to abort the show at the midway point when torrential rains soaked the stage and audience. Ross, however, promised the audience that she would return the next day - and the sun shined brightly as the full show was staged anew for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in the park and millions of people watching the event on television.

The television broadcast has been unseen for nearly three decades, but now it is back in a DVD presentation that offers both the full event and the rain-ruined half-concert. While Ross addicts will obviously enjoy the return of this long-unavailable production, those with a Ross appreciation level that is a few notches below fanaticism may not be entirely impressed.

While Ross naturally trots out her solo hits and a medley of Supremes classics, she curiously attempts to do covers that are not suited to her vocal style. Renditions of "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," "Beat It," "Ribbon in the Sky" and (of all things) "Maniac" fall flat, even though Ross tries to liven up the numbers with her force of personality and energetic dance moves. A cover of Billie Holiday’s "God Bless the Child" is better suited for her talents, though a bit of the infamous "Miss Ross" emerges when she huffs in exasperation that she needs more audience silence in order to put the song across.

"It took me a lifetime to get here and I’m not going anywhere!" Ross declared while the stormy winds blew her hair over her face.

Throughout the concert, Ross relies very heavily on audience goodwill to join in the singing - and, sometimes, the audience takes over the song while she watches from her stage. (This is one concert where it becomes almost impossible not to sing along with the star.) Things become more playful when she peppers her rendition of "Muscles" with requests for well-built male audience members to show off their physiques.

Somewhat more interesting is the rainy half-concert, which is presented in its entirety as a special feature. Ross offers a plucky show-must-go-on attitude before the rain wrecked her unprotected stage. "It took me a lifetime to get here and I’m not going anywhere!" Ross declared while the stormy winds blew her hair over her face. Nonetheless, she maintained a professional demeanor while directing her thousands of fans to leave the rain-drenched park. It may not have been a classic moment in pop music, but it is a fascinating lesson in handling crisis management while looking like a million bucks in a wet designer bodysuit.

"Diana Ross - Live in Central Park"
Shout! Factory DVD
$16.98, 160 minutes

Phil Hall is the author of "The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time

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