Pop diva Whitney Houston kicked off her first world concert tour in 10 years in Seoul, Saturday evening.
Approximately 11,000 fans flocked to Olympic Gym #1, Olympic Park for a chance to see the six-time Grammy winner perform in Korea for the first time, as part of her “Nothing But Love” 2010 world tour.
A few minutes past 7 p.m., Houston emerged clad in an all-black outfit: a turtleneck, leather pants and a floor-length coat. She sounded shaky at first, performing fast-paced songs “For the Lovers” and “Nothing But Love.” Her entrance was marred by audio and technical problems, with the backing tracks appearing to overshadow Houston’s own voice.
“Good evening, Korea. Welcome to the Whitney Houston show. This is the first show of our world tour and we’re starting here. We’re working out a lot of details, but hopefully you’ve come here to hear me sing. I’m going to sing to you from my heart. It’s hard for me to lip synch. I tried to do it, but I can’t,” she said.
The 47-year-old singer appeared to need some time to warm up her voice, which obviously was not the same powerful voice that fans remember from her memorable hits in the ’80s and ’90s.
But after the slow start, Houston sang the ballad “Didn’t Know My Own Strength,” showing that she can still hit the high notes.
“It’s been so long, 10 years since I’ve been on tour … You’ve been so kind to me, so loving, caring and warm, even though it’s so cold. Thank you so much,” she said.
Houston still has a charismatic stage presence, giving fans a glimpse of the pop diva that reigned the music world in the late ’80s and ’90s and has sold over 200 million records.
However, it was obvious Houston and her concert staff were still trying to iron out the kinks of the tour. There were awkward silences between songs, last-minute changes to the set list and on two occasions, Houston suddenly stopped singing and asked the band to start over. During “My Love,” she stopped to pick up a piece of her shoe from the floor and re-attached it.
Perhaps the first half of the show was too much for Houston, who looked out-of-breath and drenched in sweat. She asked the crowd to watch a video montage while she changed clothes backstage.
During the break, the band performed “For the Love of You,” while the back-up singers and dancers got the crowd excited with “Queen of the Night.” Two of the dancers had formerly worked with the late pop superstar Michael Jackson.
Houston later re-emerged in a white floor-length coat for the “unplugged” segment of the concert. She reminded the crowd that this year is the 25th anniversary of her debut album.
“Can you believe that? I don’t want to tell you this but I’ve been in show business for 30 years now. I can’t believe it myself. It seems like it was only yesterday,” she said, looking emotional.
Her voice sounded strong as she performed “Saving All My Love,” “The Greatest Love of All,” and “All At Once,” although the songs had new arrangements.
Houston had the crowd grooving to the hit song “Dance with Somebody,” then slowed down the pace once more with the gospel song “I Love the Lord,” from her 1996 film “The Preacher’s Wife.”
Houston looked like she was cold on stage, as she tightly belted her coat to keep her warm. “For some reason, there’s a breeze on stage. I don’t like singing in the cold, but for you I will continue singing,” she said.
She sang the deeply personal title track from her latest album “I Look to You,” while taking sips from a mug in one hand. Then with renewed energy, Houston sang, danced and ran from one side of the stage to the other for “Step by Step.”
The concert would not be complete without Houston performing her trademark song “I Will Always Love You,” and she didn’t disappoint. Throwing kisses and bowing, she graciously thanked the crowd and left the stage. After a nearly two-hour show, Houston returned for an encore, singing her latest single, “Million Dollar Bill,” and receiving loud cheers from the audience.
Houston gave another concert in Seoul on Sunday evening, then hit the road again for concerts in Japan, Australia and Europe.
– Cathy Rose A. Garcia (koreatimes)