Motown goddess Diana Ross was in two places at once on Tuesday night in Minneapolis.
The real “Miss Ross,” as she insists on being addressed, was onstage at Northrop auditorium — the hair, the gowns and the hits. A young actress portraying Ross was onstage at the Orpheum Theatre, starring in “Motown the Musical,” the story of how impresario Berry Gordy built the famous record label and made young Diana his queen.
As her early back story played out at the Orpheum (yes, she romanced the boss, Mr. Gordy), Miss Ross, 73, revisited the entirety of her 57-year career in 73 minutes at Northrop — her Supremes heyday, movie triumphs, disco days, solo gems. She even brought Rhonda Ross, her daughter with Gordy, as opening act.
But while it was clear in “Motown the Musical” that Ross had her ups and downs, she seemed to know only one mood at Northrop — overflowing joy. The radiant Ross with the perma-smile sang every song with the same intensity, dynamic and enthusiasm. Even the songs of longing and sadness seemed hopelessly happy.
There was no heartache with that unerasable megawatt smile. It never seemed imaginable that her world would be empty without you, babe, whoever that babe might be or have been.
Not that this approach broke the hearts of any of the nearly 2,000 fans at Northrop. Because Ross was in a good mood. She made consistent eye contact with fans, even pointing and smiling at several individuals. Her voice was clear, forceful and lovably girlish. Who cares if her voice got chirpy on adrenaline during the closing “I Will Survive,” the disco anthem that she has tried to make into her signature.
Yes, she is a survivor, an underdog (go see “Motown the Musical”), a striver who beat the odds to become a music star, a movie star and an icon.
She still carries herself like a diva’s diva. Her gown arrives in the spotlight before she does, all aquamarine shawl over deep aquamarine sequins. Of course, there’s the Musafa-worthy hair and those saucer-size eyes.
While she sang, Ross must have pushed back her hair 10 times during each number. She worked the entire stage, tossed off her shawl at an opportune moment and exited three times to change into a series of fabulous outfits.
Friendly and likable, she talked about having spent several days in town, going to the market and museums, but never mentioned Minneapolis by name. She did marvel about the walkways between buildings — skyways to us, Miss Ross — so she clearly didn’t give us a completely generic greeting.
Like her recent shows in Minneapolis, this concert was divided into sections — the Supremes, disco era, solo career, movie songs and over-the-top anthems.
Backed by six musicians and three singers (two of whom were men), she seemed to relish the adoration of the fans as much as she did revisiting her Supremes smashes. She was running in place and shaking her shoulders with excitement as she launched into “Come See about Me.”
The diva let her hair down and showed her motherly instincts when she brought a young girl named Audrey onstage to dance during “Upside Down,” her 1980 disco fave. The youngster lost herself in an extended square-dance-meets-punk-Pogoing to the delight of the audience and Miss Ross.
The superstar showed her enduring vocal power on the soaring “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and her careful phrasing on the nuanced “Endless Love,” her 1981 Lionel Richie hit duet during which she never really faced her Northrop partner, a backup singer named Fred.
That was OK, though. Because this was the Diana Ross Show. If you want Ross as love story, go see “Motown the Musical.”