If you’re looking for a serious-critic take on Mariah Carey’s Caution World Tour, this is not it.
Like Mariah’s very Mariah show on Friday night in Detroit, an early stop on her trek supporting her latest remarkable R&B album, Caution, this definitely biased review is for the army of gay lambs (glambs?) for which this dazzling tour is tailored. Like me: a grown 36-year-old gay man who needed a friend to accompany me to a Mariah Carey show just to manage my emotions. As Mimi herself might say, I was intoxicated, flying high. Here’s why:
Her Grand EntranceKevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation
I warned the critic next to me that I’d gesticulate and fangirl-scream with unbridled homosexual joy, and that happened immediately, as Mariah made her Great Diva Entrance. She was already perched high on a staircase, her silhouette aglow through a sheer screen. Whistle tones whistled. Then flashes of pink, a roaring rip. The screen was gone and The Elusive Chanteuse was not so elusive as she emerged singing her sassy new single “A No No.”
Her Drag Queen Takedown
Mariah or somebody very gay on her presumably very gay team has been watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. We love this person, for during “Heartbreaker” a diva vs. drag queen showdown was staged. Dressed in all red with a jet-black wig and stilettos, Mariah’s goth nemesis Bianca—originally portrayed by Mariah herself in the 1999 video, and played by dancer Julio Marcelino during the concert—sashayed out. The two then goofily dueled, with Mariah taking Bianca down to the ground with a fake kick and punch and sending me into total peak-gay delirium.
Her #JusticeForGlitter MomentKevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation
For years, songs from the commercially disastrous soundtrack for her unintentionally campy film foray of the same name, Glitter, went unperformed. Critics panned it, she famously passed out popsicles during a surprise appearance on TRL while promoting it. Shortly after, she checked into rehab. In Detroit, she thanked the “unparalleled quality of the lambily” for last year’s #JusticeForGlitter Twitter campaign, which resurrected her underrated and undersold album, helping it score its best sales week on the Billboard charts in 16 years. A sparkling medley of Glitter songs followed. Billie Frank in the house! With giant Glitter flags and Carey in a big pink boa, the segment was more inspirational than “Hero,” as she wholeheartedly embraced an era in her career she, for many years, could not.
Her “Vision of Love” Vocals
Mariah’s voice can still soar to the heavens, but it’s the lesser-expected bottom-range lows she dips into (that growl!) that proved most surprising. Her chart-toppers didn’t require backing tracks and lip tapes—just key changes and some thrilling improvisation. I stopped breathing for at least a minute and 32 seconds—the time I clocked as she took hold of a slowed-down “Vision of Love” with startling confidence. Ending her first No. 1 single in a dramatic vocal crawl, she worked over each word unhurriedly before going in for the kill. And kill, she did. In her own words: Proceed with caution!
Her Whole Damn Set List Was A Yes YesKevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation
As a living legend producing some of her most artistic and ambitious work 30 years into her career with Caution, Mariah’s biggest challenge must be knowing what to perform. Casual listeners want “Hero,” “Always Be My Baby” and “Dreamlover” (all of which were performed in their original formats), but we lambs know Mariah’s catalog is richer than her legendary chart-toppers. This tour’s set list is outstanding. Bold and fresh and a lamb’s dream, it honors MC as more than a hits machine. She performed six Caution songs, a very welcome snippet from her last album, Me. I Am Mariah. The Elusive Chanteuse (“You Don’t Know What to Do,” perfectly mashed with “Emotions”), and a multitude of dance and urban remixes that, in the ’90s, broadened the scope of her artistry and shook the walls of gay clubs everywhere.
Her LED Dress Was LitKevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation
Mariah was lit! Like the male-dancer abs on full display during “Fantasy,” present just so their hard work in the gym could be admired, the diva delivered excess like only she can, strutting out onstage wearing a dress lined with two vertical stripes of LED inserts that flickered pink and purple. The lights cut out and glow-in-the-dark Mariah shone brightly. “The dress—is it festive?” she asked exuberantly. She already knew the answer.
Her Obsession With TeaKevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation
A diva needs her hot tea—not just on New Year’s Eve but always. And so, Mariah got her hot tea and made an amusing diva scene of it each time, sipping it through a straw, acknowledging every tea-drinking moment—“a little spot of tea,” she purred in a British accent—like it was an important part of the spectacle. It was.