It’s been a very long 13 years since Mariah Carey last toured the UK. Her 2003 Charmbracelet tour saw her embark on an arena tour and at that time her popularity in the UK had waned. I saw her at Manchester Arena and half of the arena was curtained off due to poor ticket sales. Since then Mariah stage a huge comeback in 2005 with The Emancipation of Mimi album, which scored her two more number 1 hits with We Belong Together and Don’t Forget About Us. Her last number 1 was Touch My Body back in 2008, taking her impressive tally to 18.
Since then Mariah has released three more albums and in 2015 she returned to Sony Music for a new album deal and the release of greatest hits set #1 to Infinity. The superstar diva also inked a deal with Caesars Palace where she has been performing her residency over the past 12 months. After cruelly missing the UK off her destinations for The Emancipation of Mimi tour, Mariah finally announced her return late last year with The Sweet Sweet Fantasy Tour.
Prior to Mariah’s UK arrival the critics were already out in force wondering if her voice would be as good as it used to be. It’s fair to say that the once untouchable singer has struggled with some performances over the year but when you have a voice like Mariah, it can’t be easy to sustain the power and range for long periods of time over decades. It was evident last night that Mariah is in the best vocal form she has been for a while. Arriving on the stage around 9.15pm, Mariah was carried in by her hunky dancers as she performed a mash-up of the Def Club Mix and Bad Boy Mix of her iconic hit Fantasy. Immediately Mariah silenced any doubters that she could still belt, whistle and hit the notes that she recorded all those years ago.
The set list for the evening wasn’t a rehash of her Vegas residency, instead opting to mix classic hits with those from a little later in her catalogue. All the songs fans wanted to hear were present with 1991’s Emotions being the furthest back she went and 2009’s Obsessed the most recent hit that she included in the set. There were a few surprises over the course of the night with Mariah performing 2001 Glitter lead single Loverboy, a song she’s rarely performed previously, and she was joined on video screen by The Jackson 5 for I’ll Be There and the late Whitney Houston for When You Believe.
Between songs Mariah was the most chatty I’ve seen her in a long time. She didn’t play up to her diva image too much although she did make reference to being labelled as ‘difficult’ by some people. Much of her time in between songs saw her expressing her joy to be performing in the UK again and she thanked her fans (aka Lambs) for their love and support. Mariah treated us to a little bit of Butterfly album track 4th of July after seeing a fan sign begging her to sing it. She also tried her hand at an English accent and I have to say she wasn’t half bad!
Highlights from the set included a rousing rendition of One Sweet Day, performed with Trey Lorenz and Daniel Moore, a surprisingly emotional Always Be My Baby, and Mariah’s signature hit Hero, which she admitted she wasn’t that keen on when she first wrote and recorded it. We Belong Together was greeted with huge applause from the audience, who sung every single word along with Mariah.
Things came to a close with a stunning performance of Without You. Mariah was in fantastic vocal form performing the belts in the song with incredible clarity. It was definitely a goosebumps moment and to use a classic Mariah phrase it was definitely ‘all about the nostalgia’.
Mariah exceeded my expectations last night and deliver a hits packed set that was full of fantastic vocal performances. Her critics will always try to pull her down but she proved last night that she still has everything it takes to wow on stage. It was a joy to hear so many classic songs and the reaction from the audience was one of the most electric I’ve ever seen at The O2 Arena; they knew every single word to every single song (and so did I). I just hope that Mariah doesn’t leave it another 13 years before she returns to the UK!
Set List: 1. Fantasy 2. Emotions 3. My All 4. Always Be My Baby 5. I’ll Be There 6. Rock With You (Trey Lorenz solo) 7. Touch My Body 8. I Know What You Want 9. Obsessed 10. It’s Like That 11. Shake It Off 12. Loverboy 13. Heartbreaker 14. Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now) 15. One Sweet Day 16. When You Believe 17. Hero 18. We Belong Together 19. Without You Performance Date: Wednesday 23rd March 2016