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Mariah Carey at Gibson Amphitheatre

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A nostalgic Carey shows today's divas how it's done in a soaring performance. Lady Gaga and Beyonce, take note.>

Halfway through her highly entertaining show Tuesday night at Gibson Amphitheatre, Mariah Carey stood onstage in a sparkly gold cocktail dress and waxed nostalgic for a (more) gilded age.



“Remember the video with the jet skis?" she asked wistfully, referring to the James Bond-inspired clip for her 1997 hit “Honey," which the singer's seven-piece band had begun playing. “They don't make those anymore."

Nor do they make pop divas like Carey anymore. In an era of high-tech performance-art opacity (think Beyonc or Lady Gaga), her transparent blend of vocal talent and goofy charisma seems appealingly old-fashioned. Tuesday's concert, the first of two at the Gibson in support of last year's “Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel," felt at times like an attempt to break down the kind of mystique that's grown up around Carey's successors.

Which didn't mean it lacked for production pizazz: Elaborately costumed in a cloud of honey-colored taffeta, the singer made her entrance upon an enormous swing that lowered from above the stage; later, during “Angels Cry," a pair of dancers performed a Cirque du Soleil-style aerial number while suspended from a flimsy band of cloth.

Yet rather than presenting these elements as immovable facts of nature, Carey took every opportunity to expose the business behind the show. Before an effervescent version of “Always Be My Baby," she invited her hair-and-makeup team onstage for a mid-set touch-up, then decided she could do the job just as well herself. “I went to beauty school," she said, powdering her nose. “Five hundred hours in 11th grade."

What made all these disclosures so endearing, of course, was Carey's singing, which 20 years after her emergence with the melisma-soaked “Vision of Love" has lost little of its uncommon power.

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