The chart-topping chanteuse served statistics and whistle notes galore.
Legend — Icon — “Hero”… No single descriptor can define the actual greatness that is Mariah Carey, the voice of multiple generations who graced Minneapolis with her genre-defying vocals last night.
Carey released #1 to Infinity in 2014; the album and accompanying Las Vegas residency were a chronological setlist of her 18 number one hits. After subsequent tours also emphasized those chart toppers, fans were desperate for different material to be played live.
Enter Caution World Tour, a fan service tour in the best of ways. It may not have “One Sweet Day,” but it has Glitter tracks sung live for the very first time. Not to mention new music from Caution, largely considered by critics and fans to be her best album since The Emancipation of Mimi.
Last night’s Minneapolis show played at the State Theatre — an ornate and gorgeous venue — which is probably the closest match to the Colosseum at Caesars Palace that Minnesota offers. Fitting, as Carey has described Caution World Tour as her “most intimate tour yet.”
Ever fabulously aloof, Carey seemingly did not realize this was her first full-length gig here, simply telling the crowd it was “good to be back.” Still, the crowd welcomed her with a deafening roar. With its domed ceiling and sloped walls, the State Theatre feeds crowd noise back to the crowd, causing a heightened effect.
The sound mixing did not help; it was not good — and Carey herself agreed. The diva talked between virtually every song, and threw subtle shade at sound and lighting technicians along the way. Her in-ear monitors were distorted, probably much like the blaring audio coming from the arena-sized front-of-house speakers. This was the weak point of an otherwise great concert, although the engineers did seem to find their groove during the latter half of the show.
The eclectic setlist was a shuffle-mode journey through Carey’s entire career, spanning from her debut single “Vision of Love,” to the current Caution single “A No No.” Minneapolis audibly favored the older material, which meant those songs were harder to hear over crowd noise. This allowed for her soothing, chill Caution album cuts to shine, as the largely Generation X crowd was experiencing these songs for the first time. It meant her pristine vocals were entirely audible, with every note coming through pitch perfect. Although she did not lip sync, her vocals were still studio-quality. Whistle notes and all. It’s her gift.
The Caution highlight was “8th Grade,” a confessional pop song that recalls the awkwardness around a middle school crush, something her twins Roc and Roe may experience soon enough. The twins made a cameo at the tail end of “Always Be My Baby,” microphones in hand, to sing along and say, “Hi, Minneapolis.”
Visually, the show featured the edge-to-edge 4K video screen popularized by fellow Las Vegas theater acts like Britney Spears. Background visuals were tastefully done and never distracting. Things shown ranged from moody, screensaver-esque simplicity to photo booth-style family pictures. Carey stunned in five dresses designed by Johnny Wujek and The Blonds.
There were moments of Mariah’s World-level over-the-top-ness, like Carey being joined on stage by makeup artist Kristofer Buckle and hairstylist Miles Jeffries for touch ups. She acknowledged it as a “diva” moment and said other female pop singers do the same, just backstage. The crowd did not mind, screaming all manner of RuPaul’s Drag Race-like affirmations at Carey.
Although the length of the show seemed standard, a few songs from previous stops were axed; the slow-burn ballads “Portrait,” “My Saving Grace” and “Looking In." The final song on Caution, “Portrait” would have shown the oldies-loving Twin Cities crowd that Carey still can pen a poignant R&B track. The removal makes sense, though, as the midsection of the show is already heavy on similarly relaxed songs.
The much-hyped #JusticeForGlitter medley of Glitter soundtrack songs felt exhilarating. Carey clearly enjoyed giving some truly terrific tracks their just dessert moment; although just one minute of “Loverboy” wasn’t enough. One could have half-expected for Minneapolis-located Glitter production duo Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis to pop on stage for a cameo like they did at the last Janet Jackson show, but they did not — and were not mentioned.
Maybe it was that the crowd universally knew the songs again, but the 2000s-throwback performances of “Touch My Body” and “We Belong Together” were the loudest singalongs of the night. Carey was sure to let the crowd know “Body” was her 18th #1 hit, which was not the first time she shared a statistic. Got to love a queen who knows her Billboard magazine trivia.
In the penultimate moments of the show, Trey Lorenz — backup vocalist and R&B star in his own right — introduced the band. Lorenz had a genuinely humble moment when the crowd roared for him; “You guys remember me?” The crowd did, and it felt like a missed opportunity that Carey and Lorenz didn’t recreate their MTV Unplugged duet version of “I’ll Be There” onstage.
Carey’s four male backup dancers broke it down with tight choreography and an endless supply of charisma. Julio Marcelino was the standout. In “Heartbreaker” — hands down the best performance of the night — Marcelino appeared on stage dressed as “Bianca,” Carey’s alter-ego and fake nemesis. The two duked it out in a staged fight, with the diva knocking Marcelino out in a hilarious “TKO.”
Mariah Carey re-emerged for a two-song encore, starting with her single “With You.” Last year’s top ten Billboard Adult Contemporary hit connected with the crowd more than other Caution cuts. The show closed with Carey admitting “Hero” is still her go-to setlist closer because “the message is still there.” After belting out every last note of the iconic hit, Carey thanked the crowd for their support since the beginning of her career — and most importantly, now.
What’s your favorite Mariah Carey song? Tweet me: @DerekPlease