Diana Ross Opens Tour With A Little Help From Supremes

Members of Motown group join for half of show; Ross goes it alone for remainder.

PHILADELPHIA — It's billed as Diana Ross and the Supremes' Return to Love tour.

And sure, there was plenty of Ross and lots of love at Wednesday night's

tour kickoff at the First Union Spectrum, but not a whole lot of


Lynda Laurence and

COLOR="#003163">Scherrie Payne, who performed with the

Supremes for a short time in the 1970s after Ross left the hit-making

Motown group, sang backup for Ross for the first half of Wednesday's

nearly three-hour performance. The second half of the show featured Ross

— sans Supremes until the last few songs — singing her solo


And that was just fine for most of the 9,000 fans (in a 16,000-capacity

arena) here, some of whom paid $250 a seat.

"She could sing a cappella and it would be beautiful," Sue Hardy, 57, of

Birdsboro, Pa., said.

What the audience lacked in size, it made up for with enthusiasm.

Ross, Laurence and Payne made a dramatic entrance at the top of a

50-foot staircase in the middle of the stage. Wearing mirror-paneled

gowns, Ross and her singers launched into a dead-on version of the

Supremes' 1967 hit "Reflections" (RealAudio excerpt). Afterward, Laurence and Payne twirled during "My World Is Empty Without You," and the trio was flawless on "Come See About Me." All the while, an orchestra delivered a full, lush version of the Motown sound.

"We're just going to hit you with the hits," Ross, who was sporting a

very full Afro, said.

"Back in My Arms," "Where Did Our Love Go," "Baby Love" and "Stop! In

the Name of Love" (RealAudio excerpt) were some of the

Supremes' 1960s smashes that followed between gown changes.

Eventually, Ross introduced Laurence and Payne as her "new girlfriends."

"These girls, for me, have kept the legacy alive," Ross said.

Original Supreme Florence Ballard

died in 1976. Mary Wilson, the other

surviving original Supreme, and Ross couldn't agree on how much Wilson

would be paid for a reunion tour. Wilson has said she balked at an offer

of $2 million for the eight-week tour. Ross is receiving $15 million,

according to numerous reports.

The fans in attendance said they were unconcerned with such matters.

"We don't care if she's bitchy or temperamental," Beth Blair, 36, of

Moorestown, N.J., said of Ross. "She always comes through."

After the Supremes set, things didn't run so smoothly. Ross' voice began

to break ever so slightly, and the orchestra was not as finely tuned as

it was for the Supremes' songs. The musicians seemed to overwhelm Ross

during the delicate "Touch Me in the Morning," for example. The Ross

solo set also included a rendition of her 1976 disco classic, "Love


To close the show, Laurence and Payne rejoined Ross for a cheeky version

of the early Motown song "Money" and a soulful, smoky rendition of the

Four Tops' "Reach Out I'll Be There." Ross then pulled R&B singer

Luther Vandross out of the audience

for a devotional duet on "Amazing Grace."

A seemingly never-ending version of Gloria

Gaynor's disco anthem, "I Will Survive," closed the show

(blown confetti no extra charge).

Ross thanked the audience for showing up.

"You're here," Ross said. "I knew you'd be here."