By Mark Guarino
Divas don’t work.
That was the lesson Mariah Carey fans learned at the United Center Saturday. Carey — on her first world tour in seven years — did everything she could to not sing a song. In one of the most bizarre shows in recent memory, the sold-out event had the pacing of a 10-car pile-up.
Carey has sold over 128 million albums since her 1990 debut, making her the biggest-selling female artist of all time. But what was made obvious Saturday is that it’s her role as a tabloid celebrity that has secured such worldwide attention. Since debuting in 1990, her talents as a vocalist and songwriter have clearly diminished. What’s left are new songs that feel more like charmless radio product than challenging music and a stage personality that is condescending, befuddling and worst yet, lazy.
How does someone charge $75 a ticket and put in so little effort? For Carey, it was simple. It just takes lengthy comedy skits, a show-long storyline continually referred to through video, guest singers taking over so you can skirt offstage yet again and costume changes that averaged six an hour.
Carey did sing songs now and then (about six an hour, too), but they were treated as an annoying contrivances interrupting the high-heeled hoopla. Her five-piece band and four backup singers (who sometimes took over lead vocals so she could dash offstage) slickly provided moments she could bullet up her five-octave range. But even then it was uneventful. She just closed her eyes, held her ears and piped up higher and higher almost inaudibly. Dogs in the West Loop must have thought it was dinner time.
It didn’t stop there. A video at the beginning — and continued throughout — featured Mariah being stalked by a “bad Mariah” named Bianca. Including a cat fight and an appearance by Don King, it was painfully humorless.
But Carey kept at it. She brought kids onstage and fed them champagne (no one checks ID’s in Mariah-land, I guess) and Coke. Her drag queen make-up artists showed up to touch up her face. She pranced around in sexy p.j.’s and gave a singer a hardcore lap dance, singing to video-projected rappers Snoop Dogg and ODB. She brought out a four-piece clone of the Backstreet Boys and touted their upcoming album. She even boxed bad girl Bianca.
The WWF had more taste.
Simply put, the whole night felt like it was conceived by someone warped on acid.
“The work load never ceases to amaze me,” she giggled once.
That is tripping.