Just 10 months after giving birth to twins Moroccan and Monroe, a soulful and slender ("30 lbs [less] on Jenny Craig," according to her rep) Mariah Carey returned to the stage with a set at New York's Gotham Hall on Thursday night (Mar. 1). The performance was part of Caesar's Entertainment's "Escape To Total Rewards" launch event, which also featured performances by Lil Wayne, Sara Bareilles, Maroon 5 and other artists simulcast from cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and New Orleans.
The concerts were promoted primarily through a Twitter hashtag #PlotYourEscape and a viral micro-site PlotYourEscape.com, neither of which were Caesar's-branded in an effort to build buzz around the Caesar's loyalty rewards program. ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" also played an integrated role in the program, with highlights from each of the four concerts set to air during a special "Kimmel" episode Saturday night. Jimmy Kimmel himself even appeared during a pre-taped Caesar's promo that aired during each of the four concerts, followed by two pre-recorded segments from Caesar's biggest performer, Celine Dion, who recently canceled 10 of her Las Vegas shows due to a vocal cord injury.
As for Carey's booking, Jason Gatswirth, Caesar's senior VP of entertainment, told Billboard the singer was on the company's "short-short list of who would be fantastic for this appearance." Caesar's coordinated the booking with Mariah's management and agents at Creative Artists Agency, who confirmed the singer in short order. "It was not just a simple concert booking. Everyone understood what we're trying to do here, and ultimately we wanted the artists excited about what we're doing."
The Gotham Hall gig was short on industry executives and filled primarily with contest winners from an online ticket giveaway, as well as Caesar's guests. Celebrities in attendance included "Smash" star Katharine McPhee, "30 Rock"'s Katrina Bowden, Miss USA Alyssa Campanella and "Mob Wives" co-stars Renee Graziano and Angela "Big Ang" Raiola, the latter two of whom got a special shout-out from Diddy during his opening set.
Backed by a full band and four more-than-game backup dancers, Mimi strutted across the stage in a tight black dress and clutched a diamond-encrusted microphone over the course of her 40-minute set. In between triumphant renditions of hits like "Always Be My Baby," "We Belong Together," "I'll Be There" and "Obsessed," Carey gave a shout-out to her husband Nick Cannon, who was in the building; got her makeup touched up onstage by a crack team of cosmetic specialists; and spoke candidly about Moroccan and Monroe, whom she referred to as "dem babies."
"Do I bring dem babies out?... They should be in bed!" she told the intimate crowd. "I really wanted to bring them here tonight, but Monroe is sometimes shy and takes a while to warm up to an audience."
During her set, Mariah Carey asked fans to sing along without inhibition, as if in their own private shower stalls. The highlight of the night came at the encore when Mariah Carey closed her 40-minute set with her ballad, "Hero." Music writers Mikey Yi of Vibe, Jozen Cummings of the Village Voice, Rembert Browne of Grantland, Jeff Rosenthal from Rolling Stone, and Billboard's own Erika Ramirez, Andrew Hampp and Jason Lipshutz, cast their own fears aside and sang along loudly and proudly- Mariah's patented hand gestures included.
Before Carey strolled onstage, Sean "Diddy" Combs delivered a rollicking performance to the New York crowd, rolling through songs like "All About the Benjamins," "Mo' Money Mo' Problems" and "Coming Home." Former Spice Girl Melanie Brown was on hand to serve as emcee at Gotham Hall.