Mariah Carey emerged on New Year’s Eve at New York’s Madison Square Garden in the most fantastically fairy-tale like manner possible: suspended above the audience in a red sleigh, singing her remixed version of “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” It was a moment of blissful spectacle befitting the special night and Carey’s fascination with perpetual childhood. “Eternally 12!” she exclaimed several songs later, spotting a sign in the crowd announcing her motto (she’ll turn 40 years old in March). A few seconds later she showed off another of her signature personality traits. “I need some lipstick real quick and my hair fluffed,” she proclaimed, adding, “They say I’m a diva so, might as well act like one.”
A crew of male dancers joined Carey for “Shake It Off” and “Touch My Body,” after which she addressed the crowd — which included Precious star Gabourey Sidibe — for the first of what would become many times. Noting the title of the next song “might be off-putting, I don’t mean it to you,” she launched into “H.A.T.E.U.” from her most recent album, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, and then vanished for a costume change while her dancers grooved to “Make It Happen” (she returned in time to belt the closing verse).
Carey is known more for her vocal prowess and huge personality than her stage shows, and the concert — the first date on her Angels Advocate Tour, her first since 2006’s The Adventures of Mimi trek — delivered far more on the big notes and bizarre monologues than impressive choreography and set design. She requested a drink before “Subtle Invitation” (“I need some champagne, I don’t care what Debbie Allen says”), complained about her mic pack (“If this thing falls off my dress one more time I’m going to beat you”), and mused on the passage of time (“I never thought I’d live to see 2010 because I’m eternally 12”).
Images of Ol’ Dirty Bastard rapping his intro to “Fantasy” filled the video screens at two minutes to midnight, and Carey began the song, then suddenly stopped to count down to the new year as blasts of confetti, streamers and balloons filled the air. When the air had cleared, Carey soldiered on with “Obsessed” and “Migrate” as her crew milled around the stage, dancing with each other and partying in 2010 (at one point, they broke into a spontaneous Electric Slide). Carey’s husband Nick Cannon rocked from side to side behind a set of turntables, encouraging the crowd and Mariah to finish strong. “You look sexy in that!” he shouted to the singer before “Emotions” after she admitted she preferred a different dress.
The flood of unrehearsed comments didn’t phase the crowd, who had come to see Carey in all her off-the-cuff diva glory. From her stream-of-consciousness voicemails on her Website to her legendary Cribs appearance, Carey has given her fans something few pop artists are willing to reveal: honesty. She managed to put all the distractions behind her for a glorious final song, 1993’s “Hero.” Then she took Cannon’s arm, yelled her thanks to the sold-out arena (“I love you so much!”) and ambled offstage.
“All I Want For Christmas Is You” (SoSoDef Remix)
“Touch My Body”
“Make It Happen”
“It’s Like That”
– Trey Lorenz Michael Jackson Tribute –
“Love Hangover/Heartbreaker” (Mashup from “Diana Ross: Divas Live”)
“We Belong Together”
“Fantasy” (R&B remix into the David Morales Mix)
– Countdown to Midnight –
“More Than Just Friends”