Friday, Feb. 6, 2015
“Did I ever tell you about the time my friends and I dressed up as The Supremes in high school?” my mom offered just as the lights began to lower in the Durham Performing Arts Center last Friday night.
For me, it was a revelation. A grade-school teacher for almost four decades, mom glowed even in the dimmed house. For the first time in her life, she was about to see her longtime idol. As the opening chords to the 1980 hit "I'm Coming Out" echoed through the theater, my mother and many like her flew to their feet, their hands up, as the elegantly adorned Diana Ross strolled onto the stage.
Ross broadcast that trademark smile to the sold-out crowd, and she began working through a setlist that delivered a string of classics from her time with The Supremes and beyond. The 12-piece band behind her hummed through one tight rendition after another.
When the familiar introduction of "Baby Love" tapped away from the baby grand piano on stage, I turned to my left to see my mother. She was singing along and dancing, perhaps as she had onstage with her girlfriends, back in Hollywood, Florida, some 40 years ago.
The rest of the 90-minute performance seemed to fly by. Ross' standout moment came with minimal accompaniment, as she covered Billie Holiday's "Don't Explain.” The mid-tempo pace showcased a legendary voice that still possesses considerable power. When Ross delivered the spirited closer, “Reach out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand,)” nearly everyone in the theater stood. “Put your hands in the air and feel this wonderful energy,” Ross instructed the compliant crowd.
My mother teared up, and I asked her why. This set of songs was so special to her, she said, and brought back memories of a time long gone. The lights came back up. I surveyed the room, realizing she wasn’t the only one remembering lost moments—and reveling in the present one, too.
I'm Coming Out
More Today Than Yesterday
My World Is Empty Without You
Stop! In the Name of Love
You Can't Hurry Love
Touch Me in the Morning
Take Me Higher
Ease on Down the Road
The Look of Love
Why Do Fools Fall in Love
Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)
Ain't No Mountain High Enough
I Will Survive
Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)
I Will Survive (Reprise-outro)