Diana Ross’s Aug. 3 performance at the Hollywood Bowl may have been relatively short (about 75 minutes). But the legendary artist — sailing aboard a raft of songs and five costume changes — still knows how to keep fans wanting more while also reminding them that she originally put the D in diva.
It was pretty much a Ross family affair at the Bowl. The evening’s emcee was the singer’s daughter, actress Tracee Ellis Ross, who introduced opening performances by siblings Rhonda Ross and Evan Ross (whose R&B/pop album debut arrives in September) as well as the group Pentatonix. Then before the start of a 20-minute intermission, Ellis Ross declared, “If you know anything about my mom, you know she is prompt. So don’t take long getting back to your seats.”
At 9 p.m., the senior Ross’s nine-piece band and a trio of backing vocalists stood before a video screen that began displaying flashes of color and designs before morphing into images of the diva herself. Then as the words “You Ready” flashed across the screen, the triumphant strains of “I’m Coming Out” soared into the brisk summer night as Ross appeared at the top of the platform supporting the drummer and percussionist.
Dressed in a fishtail-styled turquoise sequined skirt with an asymmetrical bell-sleeved silver/turquoise top and long turquoise boa, Ross sashayed her way through that hit and then a cover of the Spiral Staircase gem “More Today Than Yesterday” before saluting her former Motown colleagues. Against a backdrop of photos featuring the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, the Temptations, Miracles, Stevie Wonder, and the Jackson 5, among others, she sang “My World Is Empty Without You.”
That segued into a Supremes hit medley including “Come See About Me,” “Baby Love,” “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Stop! In the Name of Love” and “You Can’t Hurry Love” followed by her solo hit “Touch Me in the Morning” before a shift back to the Supremes’ late ‘60s hit “Love Child.” A costume change into a slinky red-sequined floor-length number with another matching boa launched a deeper dive into her solo career. That got the crowd up and dancing via such hits as “The Boss” and “Upside Down” as well as a truncated version of “Love Hangover” paired with 1995’s “Take Me Higher.”
After “Ease on Down the Road,” another change into a midnight blue gown with a matching fringed cape sparked a brief foray into jazz with renditions of “The Look of Love” and “Don’t Explain,” the latter featured in her Billie Holiday biopic “Lady Sings the Blues.” Switching gears to her ’81 cover of the ‘50s R&B hit “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” Ross and her silver platforms scooted offstage for a fourth change (yellow ball-style gown/boa). “Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)” morphed into a rousing audience sing-along on the R&B/pop hit “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
A final costume change at 10:13 p.m. (black-sequined gown with lime green boa accompanied by Ross’ slight trip onstage) signaled the final song, a spirited version of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” Bringing family members back onstage, Ross sang out a final goodbye and the diva was gone.
Ross was in fine voice all evening, especially on the torchy “Don’t Explain.” And she did perform five of her six solo Hot 100 No. 1s (“Touch,” “Mountain,” “Hangover,” “Upside Down” and “Mahogany”). However, Ross left fans — and this writer — wondering why she didn’t do a longer set. Where was her signature “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand).” Or other songs like “Mirror, Mirror,” “Muscles” and “Missing You.” Or “Good Morning Heartache” and more from “Lady Sings the Blues?” Or a surprise guest like Lionel Richie to reprise her sixth solo Hot 100 No. 1 “Endless Love.” Or hope against futile hope: a brief onstage reunion with Mary Wilson and/or the former Supremes? It was all too short — but still sweet.