Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Carey fritters focus from gold to glitter

Extraneous events detract from singing

By Chris Varias
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Mariah Carey is still digging out from the disasters of the last few years.

Had it not been for a chain of personal travails and career missteps, Carey could very well be performing to packed arenas.

She did play U.S. Bank Arena Sunday, but less than half of the venue's seats were made available for the show, and the biggest-selling female pop singer of the 1990s still couldn't manage a sellout.

After her movie Glitter and its soundtrack (date of release: Sept. 11, 2001) both cemented their legacies as all-time flops, and after her record label handed her millions of dollars just to go away, Carey was selling the idea of not giving up to the crowd during her 90-minute show.

"This song is about perseverance and pressing on and all that stuff," declared Carey, introducing the whispery ballad "Through the Rain." She made her fortune singing dance songs and ballads in a pristine, multi-octave voice, but now she's cementing a persona as the tragic figure who won't back down.

Such material endears her to fans. Carey later performed "Can't Take That Away," another ballad in the same theme of perseverance. The song was chosen for the show through a vote on her Web site.

Carey probably did enough over the course of the night to keep diehards happy, but she needs to tighten up her act if she hopes to recapture larger-scale success.

There were no less than seven wardrobe changes (averaging to a new outfit every 13 minutes).

All of the off-stage dressing and undressing made for plenty of down time for the concertgoer, and it was filled by video clips, dance routines, backup singers and the five-piece band.

It would have been nice if one time Carey could have stood at center stage and simply sang songs for a period of, say, 10 minutes.

Instead, there was way too much going on, and Carey wasn't always the focus. During one song she sat in a chair off to the side as clowns and men on stilts had the spotlight.

The best moments took place when the stage was cleared out, and Carey made like a vocalist instead of a ringleader. A version of "I'll Be There" sung as a duet with a backup singer comes to mind.


E-mail cvarias@enquirer.com

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