For Carey, A Storied Career in Song
The Houston Chronicle writes:
"I'm having my diva moment," Mariah Carey cooed to the crowd late into her Thursday night show at Toyota Center.
The singer had just returned to the stage after a quick costume change (her fourth of of the evening), resplendent in a flowing seafoam green gown with peek-a-boo cut-outs. As she lapped up the adulation of more than 10,000 fans, a few strains of I Wish You Knew, an old-school soul track off 2005's The Emancipation of Mimi, played in the background.
Carey has played many roles in her staggeringly successful career: winsome ingenue, hip-hop princess, fashion victim and -- pre-Mimi -- faded glitter girl. All are on display at various moments in her "Adventures of Mimi Tour."
But wordly diva -- with a knowing wink -- seems to suit her best, and during her 100-minute set, Carey played the part with exuberance, confidence and delicious abandon. (This was her first major appearance in Houston; 2003's "Charmbracelet" tour only came as close as Dallas.)
She strutted across the stage in dangerously high heels, sported sunglasses when the stage lights were too bright and took regular breaks to sip on her bottle of water. The crowd, many of whom sported butterfly wings and displayed homemade signs, ate it up.
And then there's that voice. Throughout the evening, Carey did things with her instrument that most pop singers wouldn't even attempt in the privacy of their shower. The trademark shrieks came early, during the disco-throwback Heartbreaker and fluffy pop-charmer Dreamlover.
"It's no big secret that my life has always been kinda like a rollercoaster," Carey told the cheering crowd via an introductory video clip, complete with amusement-park imagery. "If you don't get on the ride, you won't experience the adventure."
She assumed the starting position amid the strains of sing-along party-starter It's Like That, the first of five radio hits from her Emancipation opus. It was a moment of extreme urban elegance. Carey, surprisingly toned and tanned to a honey-brown, swayed to the hip-pop beat in what looked like designer lingerie, surrounded by a stable of frenetic dancers.
Her four-piece band and three backup singers were spread evenly over a mammoth stage that featured a winding staircase, multiple video screens and Carey's initials stamped in various places. It looked like the entrance to a grand ballroom -- in Carey's house, of course.
She tore through her cavernous catalog with aplomb and kept things fresh with tweaks on signature hits. Mournful ballad My All morphed into a house remix, and Heartbreaker benefited from a stop-start reworking before settling into the original version.
Recent hit Shake It Off found Carey posing in front of a mammoth, illuminated "MIMI" sign, similar to the music video. DJ Clue spun old-school favorites that kept the crowd pumping during Carey's costume changes.
Mimi (the diva, not the sign) worked the crowd in a glittering canary-yellow dress -- cut-outs and slit included -- during debut hit Vision of Love and rousing gospel stomper Fly Like a Bird. Carey's slightly raspy voice added a layer of emotion to both songs, particularly Vision, which was first released almost two decades ago.
Singer Trey Lorenz joined in for a sweet take on I'll Be There before Carey disappeared, then resurfaced, on a stage in the middle of the arena. An army of security guards lined the aisles as fans clamored for a closer look and, just maybe, a touch.
It was here, so close to her fans, that Carey seemed to really come alive, relaxing her superstar persona a bit and just vibing with the music. She kept it all upbeat -- and acknowledged the disco ball above -- via uptempo stand-outs Fantasy, Don't Forget About Us and Always Be My Baby. It was the evening's most electric interlude.
Houston rapper Mike Jones took the microphone for a few solo verses as Carey wiggled backstage into that seafoam green gown. She returned and ripped through a quick medley of ballads (Can't Let Go, Thank God I Found You, One Sweet Day) before launching into radio staple Hero. It was Carey's own greatest-love moment, complete with swaying hands and shots of misty-eyed fans.
Carey brought her Adventure to a close (before one last change into a glittering, nude-colored gown) with We Belong Together, her mammoth summertime hit that -- in a sure sign of eternal invasion -- has invaded dance floors, high-school proms and weddings.
She danced around the song's lilting melody before nailing the final third with a string of go-for-broke notes. It ended with an explosion of pink and purple confetti -- in the shape of butterflies, of course -- fluttering through the arena.
Carey, Mimi or MC -- take your pick -- seems to have finally assumed her rightful place among music's premiere pop queens.