MIAMI — Opening night of Mariah Carey's Adventures of Mimi: The Voice, the Hits, the Tour could have been subtitled The Videos, the Costumes, the Waiting. But when Carey set aside the spectacle to focus on her music and reach out to fans, she hit her stride — and those high C's.
It could have been first-show jitters, but on Saturday night, the singer seemed preoccupied at the start of the concert — as if she forgot that the reason her fans had gathered (some from as far as Portugal and Peru) was to hear her sing, not to see how many outfits she could squeeze into. Carey's backup singers and dancers carried on while she changed, DJ Clue tried to keep the momentum going, and Spike Lee (via his mini Mimi movies about rumors and gossip the singer is always facing) tried to distract from the fact that for chunks of the two-hour show, Mariah was onscreen, but not onstage.
Perhaps her fashion-minded fans didn't mind — after all, Carey did show off a lot of skin, wearing a black bikini with a cape, two different gowns with exposed midriffs, and a metallic red burlesque number that lent itself to lots of straddling poses behind a straight-back chair during "Breakdown" (see "Mariah Turning Into Superhero, James Bond On Upcoming Tour"). But it wasn't just Carey's cutout gowns that had something missing — being offstage for 10 minutes at a stretch meant the set list also got the cutout treatment, reducing several songs to snippets.
On a duet with her backup singer and fan favorite Trey Lorenz, she didn't have time to sing the entire "One Sweet Day" with him so they started the song at the bridge. And though Carey claims "I Know What You Want" — her hit with opening act Busta Rhymes — she didn't seem to know that that the crowd wanted was to see them perform the song together. Busta had included the song in his set, exhorting the ladies to sing Carey's part, and teased that he'd be back later. But when it was Carey's turn onstage, she opted to have the rapper "appear" via the music video they shot together in 2003. Jay-Z, Jermaine Dupri and the late Ol' Dirty Bastard also participated in much the same manner during "Heartbreaker," "It's Like That," and "Fantasy," which was more understandable — but Busta?
Carey was clued in that her fans wanted to hear a lot of inspirational numbers, so she packed the set with "Make It Happen," "Fly Like a Bird" (which came with a backing choir), and "Hero," which she said wasn't planned, but so many people had told her it had "changed their lives," that she "can't do a show without it." Those are all big numbers, and no one sings big better than Mariah — she hit all the high C notes with ease — but it was when she brought the show down a notch halfway through the set that she seemed happiest.
Standing on a platform in the middle of the floor seats, Carey was able to reach out to the fans and they to her. One girl even threw her purse to Carey as an offering (whatever happened to the days of bras and roses?). As if in exchange, Carey tossed her sunglasses out to the sea of grabbing hands. "I'm in the middle of the people," she said, amazed, as if to herself. Though "Don't Forget About Us" and "Always Be My Baby" are meant to be love songs, she sang them as if they were love letters to her fans, sending her dancers away so it would be just her and her adoring public for a moment. "We didn't really rehearse this," she apologized, but having a spontaneous moment was exactly what she needed to get back on track.
While all the glitz and glamour of the lights, the dancers, the video screens, the costumes, and the confetti are what we expect from a diva of Carey's stature, her fans actually want something far less extravagant: All they were talking about while filing in and out of the venue were the songs. It sounds simple enough, but Carey doesn't let it be simple — not when she can make holding a note, as she did in the encore of "We Belong Together," a major accomplishment. Clutching herself tight as if she could bottle it up inside somehow before she had to ultimately let go, she found her release, her purpose. "I didn't make it easy," she said, after letting the last strain fall away. And if it were easy, no one would be in awe that despite everything else — first-night glitches, gossip and all — she nailed it.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.