The Australian promoter of Whitney Houston's comeback tour down under has come out in full support of the diva whose opening date was savaged by fans and local critics.

Following her Monday (Feb. 22) night Australian tour curtain-raiser at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, questions have been raised about Houston's abilities to still cut it on the biggest stage. And some disappointed ticket-holders are demanding a refund.

While some reviews have been positive, the American singer reportedly appeared breathless and exhausted during the show, and is said to have looked disoriented. Carrying a towel at times, the superstar singer reportedly failed to properly name some of her backing band as she introduced them to the arena, and she took numerous breaks to restore her energy.

Promoter Andrew McManus has hit back at the negative "vocal minority," as he described it. In a statement, McManus said, "What happened to the Australian positive support of someone who has seen difficult times, and is now up on stage, warts and all, presenting herself like an open book for the world to see - and they want to ridicule Whitney?"

McManus appeared today on network breakfast TV programs in support of Houston, who is hitting the trail in Australia for the first time since her heavily publicized journey into drug abuse.

The Melbourne-based promoter added, "I am personally amazed at the few who are trying to derail the project and say if they expected to hear Whitney of 20 years ago, go buy a CD, but if they wanted to see a true professional artist give 100% and have a red hot go at songs that make the greatest vocalists shrink, well come along and enjoy the ride of an amazing talent, on stage, letting her heart and soul out for us all to enjoy."

Not everyone saw it that way. Incensed fans who paid between $95 Australian ($85) and $195 Australian ($174) for tickets took to the Internet to vent their frustrations. Some fans walked out and are demanding their money back. "We got nothing nothing nothing for what we paid for," wrote one aggrieved ticket-holder on the Courier-Mail Web site. "Not one song sung in its entirety. The ones that were sung were murdered choruses. We paid for greatness and got crap."

Houston's six-date trek rolls in to Sydney's Acer Arena tonight (Feb. 24).

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