You can’t hurry love, but as the great Diana Ross proved last night during her first ever Essence Festival performance, The Boss was worth the wait. As the Festival’s opening night performer, Ross sang hit after hit, taking the Mercedes Superdome on a nostalgic ride of her 60-year plus career.
“Are y’all too young to remember this song?” the ageless icon playfully asked before launching into the classic “Stop! In the Name of Love.”
The multi-generational audience —which included celebs such as Ava DuVernay, Anthony Anderson, Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari Parker, Loni Love, Orange is the New Black stars Adrienne C. Moore and Dasha Polanco and veteran actor Keith David— happily showed Ross they knew every lyric from her catalog of hits from her days with The Supremes to her game changing solo albums Diana and The Boss.
Opening the night with the apropos “Coming Out,” Ross went back to the beginning, performing a string of Motown-era anthems: “Baby Love,” “My World is Empty Without You” and “Come See About Me.” As she sang, black and white images of her days as the lead of Diana Ross and The Supremes were reminders the diva still has it – plus a healthy sense of humor. Ross teased News One’s host Roland Martin that he could do a better job dancing to her mega hit “Upside Down.” Then she challenged another male fan, whose enthusiastic spins did not meet her standards. Flipping her signature carefree mane, she joked, “That ain’t nothing.”
The rest of the Superdome did not disappoint Ross as she sang, “Ease on Down the Road.” Audiences jumped up as if the aisles had turned into the yellow brick road. When the cords of “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To?)” began, fans screamed as Ross spread her arms in her iconic pose, sparkling in silver and white. Ross’ wardrobe changes were as much as a highlight as her performance. Audiences clapped – if not more – each time Ross stepped back on stage in a new gown.
Still, the entertainer’s music touched everyone, somewhere, some how. From her 70’s anthems “Love Hangover” and “It’s My House” to songs from films Lady Sings the Blues (“Don’t Explain” – where she joked from the stage, “Where’s Billy Dee?”) and the theme from Endless Love.
Like all shows, the night had to end but the 73-year-old entertainer made it clear she knows what’s hot. Taking a cue from her daughter Tracee Ellis Ross alter ego T Murda, mama Ross closed the night with an unexpected cover of DJ Khaled’s anthem “All I Do is Win.” After a night of decades of music and memories, Ross reminded everyone that winning is all she knows how to do.