Normally, the shuttle from McLean Station to Wolf Trap only takes 15 to 20 minutes. On a recent trip to The Filene Center, it took about 45; traffic was backed out of the park all the way onto the freeway. On the way back, it was filled to capacity, including standing passengers. (Pro tip: try to get to the shuttle a little if you want to make sure you get a seat.)
The draw was Diana Ross, one of the most successful singers in the history of popular music.
I grew up with Ross’s music, having been introduced to it by mother. Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, my mom was and is a big fan of the Motown sound from nearby Detroit. Ross began her career with the girl group The Supremes. They released their first record in 1963, the year my mom became a teenager. With the Supremes, Ross had a dozen No. 1 songs on the charts between 1964 and 1969. In 1970, she left the group to go solo. Over 50 years, she’s been nominated for major awards, had huge hits, and even star in the Hollywood adaptation of The Wiz, a Black musical adaptation of The Wizard of Oz — the evening’s performance included “Ease On Down The Road,” which Ross recorded with the late Michael Jackson.
At Wolf Trap on July 1, Ross’s show was a capital-P production with multiple backup singers, a horn section — the works. It was divided into four acts, and she left the stage between each of them, returning in a new outfit. At 79 years old, Ross still has a fantastic voice, and she has incredible stamina: Her performance lasted nearly two hours. She began the first act with one of her biggest solo hits, “I’m Coming Out.” (The song was appropriated six nights earlier by Brandi Carlile for her headline performance at the Out & About Festival, showing the song’s elasticity.) The rest of the first act consisted of several Supremes songs (“Come See About Me,” “Reflections,” which later became the theme song for the late 80s-early 90s Vietnam War drama China Beach, “You Can’t Hurry Love,” and “Love Child,”) and a cover of “More Than Yesterday” by The Spiral Staircase.
Stream “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross on YouTube:
The band held it down between acts while Ross made her costume change. The second act focused on her solo career, with the title cut from her album The Boss, “Upside Down,” “It’s My House,” “Chain Reaction,” and “Love Hangover, along with a cover of Lebo M’s “He Lives In You,” and “Ease on Down The Road.”
The third act began with a tribute to one of Ross’s idols, Billie Holiday. Ross sang three of her signature tunes: “Fire and Mellow,” “Don’t Explain,” and “God Bless The Child.” The set also included Ross’ own “Tomorrow,” “I Still Believe,” and “If The Word Just Danced,” as well as cover of Frankie Lymon’s “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?”
The fourth and final act was the shortest, consisting of just three songs. Ross covered Thelma Houston’s “Do You Know Where You’re Going?” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” originally recorded as a duet between Marvin Gaye and Tami Terrell. She finished the evening with a medley of “I Will Survive” and “All I Do Is Win.”
As long as she’s been a fan, my mother had never seen Diana Ross, and it was an incredible experience to share this together. Ross is still an impressive, dynamic performer, and she didn’t disappoint the packed crowd who turned out to see her. As a fan myself and someone invested in the history of popular music, this checked off an item from my bucket list. Absolutely a great time.