tue 16/08/2022

Mariah Carey, Royal Albert Hall review – fervent worshippers in Mariah-heaven | reviews, news & interviews

Mariah Carey, Royal Albert Hall review – fervent worshippers in Mariah-heaven

Mariah Carey, Royal Albert Hall review – fervent worshippers in Mariah-heaven

A multi-tasking superstar as well as a restless creative spirit

Abundantly talented: Mariah Carey

The sheer scale of the Mariah Carey phenomenon is truly astounding. Since the release of her first album in 1990, she has now clocked up worldwide album sales of over 200 million, and had 18 US Number One singles. Also – and far less frequently mentioned – she is actually third in the list of songwriters with the most chart-topping singles, and sixth in the list of producers.

In other words, she is right up there contending with Lennon and McCartney in the first case, and she’s not that far behind George Martin in the second.

In this live show, the first of three nights of the “Caution” world tour at the Royal Albert Hall, Mariah Carey does what is expected – and how. She offers a selection of her mega-hits from down the years; the audience would want nothing less. And she adds a few songs from the 2018 album “Caution”. There are other expectations to be fulfilled too. Her vocal technique of ascending to the “whistle” register made its first appearance in the third song, “Dreamlover”, and one could sense the audience’s joy and approval to know that the voice and that part of it in particular are in such good shape. And there are other expectations to be met too: trademarks such as the hashtag JusticeforGlitter for example. Security staff allowed a couple of fans onto the stage so that she could perform a supreme act of multi-tasking: signing merch with one hand while singing into a glitter-encrusted microphone with the other. In essence, Carey delivers and the audience delivers back.

The fervour, the belief are always there in Carey’s four-minute songs. There is the catchiness of those call-and-response type melodic hooks which draw people in instantly; everyone joins in and sings, every time. All it takes is the slightest hint of the childlike “scoo-doo-doo” at the beginning of “You’ll Always Be my Baby”, and everyone is right there on cue. And then there is the fact that most of her songs have a loud moment of triumph built into them. The audience around me were up on their feet right from the start and savouring every moment of the show.

The sense of re-connection was going further. Carey last appeared at the Royal Albert Hall in 1994, when she sang Lionel Richie’s song “Endless Love” with Luther Vandross. That performance has had 65 million views on YouTube, and she performed it last night with the well-matched voice of Trey Lorenz, a regular collaborator through most of her career. 

The live show follows its own carefully thought-out rules. Carey is known for the detail and diligence with which she controls the production and post-production process of albums, and whereas the recorded versions of songs have a lot of sampling and technology and are very “produced”, in the live versions Carey trusts her band of regular collaborators with Daniel Moore III as musical director. The band has the recent regular experience of the Butterfly Returns concert residency in Las Vegas, and that gives confidence and solidity to the music of show. The only solo spot for the instrumentalists was given to guitarist Samir Moulay (an experienced player who has also toured with Macy Gray and Natalie Cole) and he made the most of his brief moment in the limelight.

Carey puts on a real show, and there is no mistaking the tireless, restless creative energy and forethought that have gone into the construction and planning of it. The multiple exits for changes of costume become almost ritualistic. Each time that happens the stage is left to four precisely choreographed muscle-bound male dancers (who also go through numerous costume changes including their own “glitter” moment.

Carey’s disappearances and reappearances to present another new costume provide a separate rhythm and ritual to the show, and also reinforce the shifts of mood and theme. The cuteness of having her children on video and on stage for “You’ll Always be my Baby”, for example, and the raunch of "Touch My Body" are worlds apart, and the empowered finality of "GTFO" is totally different from both. The final costume change ushers her back in full Disney regalia, a pageant princess tulle dress, for “Hero” and “Without You”. It would have been a triumphant moment, but my attention was distracted. One of the arms near me that was fervently outstretched to chant the phrase “I can’t give any more” at the apex of the song unfortunately contained a full pint of lager. Well, you can guess the rest. 

There was a point in the Albert Hall show when Carey was clearly toying with the temptation to depart from the set-list, thought about it... but decided that it was too early in the tour. The desire to take creative risks has always set her at odds with an industry which serves itself best by rolling out what is recognizably the same product forever. Now she is in a position to dictate her own terms of engagement, and clearly has a working band that can take such things in its stride, it will be fascinating to see whether the balance between the fulfilment of unchanging expectations and the satisfying of an abundantly talented, restlessly creative spirit is going to shift.




Carey puts on a real show, and there is no mistaking the creative energy and forethought that went into it


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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