Diana Ross at Glastonbury review – disco diva detonates explosion of joy

Pyramid stage
Confidently filling the traditional Sunday ‘legends’ slot at the festival, the fabulously attired Motown and disco star treated the vast crowd to hit after hit

Diana Ross makes quite an entrance to the Pyramid stage’s traditional Sunday afternoon “legends” slot: she’s wearing a sequinned kimono dress swathed in what appears to be a cloud of chiffon, wearing an absolutely enormous purple fascinator on her head and singing I’m Coming Out. Her success feels like a forgone conclusion – success in the legends slot being reliant on having a large back catalogue packed with songs everyone knows, which Ross undoubtedly does: she goes straight from I’m Coming Out into My World Is Empty Without You into Baby Love. In fact, she’s got so many hits she’s forced on occasion to condense them into medleys: Love Hangover is severely truncated – as any disco bore can tell you, the original lasts the best part of eight minutes – and segues into Ease on Down the Road.

For a woman with what you might politely call a formidable reputation, she’s charm itself between songs. “If I can move my body like this when I’m 48 years old … ” she says, her voice trailing off as she demonstrates a dancefloor shimmy. “Well,” she clarifies, “I feel 48 years old.” She’s also clearly not a woman to miss a sales opportunity. If she hawked her most recent album Thank You any more vigorously she’d be standing behind a trestle table with a cash register and a pile of CDs and vinyl – “because vinyls are coming back,” as she notes at one point. In fairness, though, the tracks she plays from it sound pretty good: you can sing Marvin Gaye and Tami Terrell’s You’re All I Need to Get By along to its title track, while If the World Just Danced offers the unlikely sound of Diana Ross singing along to an Afrobeats-inspired rhythm.

But it’s the hits people have come for – or at least some of the hits. Not enough people seem to know I’m Still Waiting to warrant a singalong – which, frankly, is their loss – and the higher notes from Theme from Mahogany prove a bridge too far for Ross’s voice. Upside Down, however, provides the required Sunday legend slot explosion of joy complete with obligatory footage of the security at the front of the stage dancing, while Ain’t No Mountain High Enough does what I’m Still Waiting couldn’t and provokes a widespread outbreak of delighted bellowing along.

Diana Ross

She returns – the cloud of chiffon replaced by an ostrich feather cape – to cover Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive. On the one hand, it’s a peculiar choice, given how many huge songs Ross still has in the back pocket of her sequinned kimono dress: My Old Piano, The Boss, It’s My House, Love Child, Remember Me, You Keep Me Hanging On. Then again, you can’t argue with the effect it has on the crowd, which is more than hysterical enough to warrant its position as Ross’s grand finale.

Contributor

Alexis Petridis

The GuardianTramp

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