Available on DVD for the first time and arriving just shy of the 30th anniversary of the landmark concert, “Diana Ross: Live in Central Park” is a testament to the diva’s professionalism and persistence. The concert was to be televised live worldwide from the great lawn of New York’s Central Park on July 21, 1983. But Mother Nature had other plans. As the concert began, the wind whipped Ross’ long hair around her head and into her face. Forty-five or so minutes into the show, the skies darkened and the gentle rain turned torrential.
A consummate performer, Ross, dressed in an orange-sequined body suit (and waterproof makeup, apparently), soldiered on for as long as she could. But concerned for the audience’s safety, she stopped the show and promised to return the next day (weather permitting) to do the whole thing over again.
The DVD gives the viewer the option to watch the “complete rain-shortened” concert, and it’s worth seeing for the perspective it provides. But the DVD’s main attraction is the July 22 concert, when glorious weather conditions compensated for the previous night’s fiasco and set the stage for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Ross doesn’t disappoint for a moment. Taking the stage in a form-fitting purple sequined body-suit (the first of a handful of costumes), she launches into an energetic and emotional concert that includes solo hits new and old, songs from her days as a Supreme and a range of covers (“Family” from “Dreamgirls,” “Maniac” from “Flashdance,” Stevie Wonder’s “Ribbon in the Sky” and Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”). Also included are songs from her films – “Home” (from “The Wiz”), “God Bless The Child” (from “Lady Sings the Blues”) and the “Theme from Mahogany.”
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself on your feet at the end, giving Ross the standing ovation she deserved. Among the DVD bonus features is director Steve Binder’s commentary.
As anyone who has ever been to a B-52s concert can attest, you haven’t fully experienced the little band from Athens, Ga., until you’ve seen it perform live. The B-52s’ “With the Wild Crowd: Live in Athens, GA,” the expanded DVD companion to the band’s 2011 CD of the same name, goes a long way toward conveying the group’s unique stage energy.
Filmed in February 2011 at the Classic Center in Athens, more than 30 years after the B-52s’ first live gig, “With the Wild Crowd” features songs from throughout the B’s career. Special attention is given to material from the band’s most recent studio release, 2007’s “Funplex.”
Throughout the concert, it’s difficult to say who’s having more fun – the band or the audience. Even if you weren’t there in person, the DVD makes you feel like part of the show.
The DVD bonus feature, an interview with Kate Pierson, Fred Schneider, Keith Strickland and Cindy Wilson, is a revelatory delight. The four trace the history of their band, paying special tribute to Cindy’s brother and co-founding member Ricky Wilson, who died in the mid-1980s.