It's been 13 long years since Mariah Carey toured Europe, and last night the singer took to the London stage once more as part of her nostalgia-laden Sweet, Sweet Fantasy Tour. When you've been away for a long time, it's important you make An Entrance. Which is why, I'm guessing, Mariah decided to get carried on stage lying on a chaise longue, held aloft by several men wearing silver-sequinned jackets. It was simultaneously low-budget (there was a definite air of a DFS advert about it, if DFS make chaise longues) and decadent (how many people do you know who get paraded around like a giant cat on a velvet cushion?). In short, it was the perfect entrance: quietly diva-ish and brilliantly camp. The press have made a "thing" about Mariah's tardiness on this tour so far – which goes worldwide after the UK – but in truth does anyone really want her to be punctual? Wouldn't that be kind of depressing? We need to think that Mariah has far better things to do than be on time to perform to 20,000 people. We need her to be a diva. And we were only left waiting a matter of minutes – 30 at most – before she arrived and started belting out the classics.
Because this show was all about the classics. No-one turned up hoping to hear new material – this tour is promoting another best of album, #1 to Infinity, after all. They came for the hits. And Mimi knows how to keep her "lambs" (as she refers to her fans) happy. Here is a singer who understands she no longer needs to recruit new customers, just keep those loyal followers coming back for more. “Fantasy”, “Hero”, “Emotions”, “Without You”, “You'll Always Be My Baby”; Mariah did them all. It was like being at the world's best karaoke session (or, perhaps worst, depending on how much you like very excited, very shouty superfans two glasses of white wine down.) Except, of course, no-one but Mariah can reach those barely-human, always impressive, squeaky top notes. And at 46, too! Forget the Hanging Gardens of Babylon or the Great Pyramid of Giza – Mariah Carey's voice is the true seventh wonder of the world.
And the show really was all about Mariah and that voice. Do not expect a fancy set or spectacular effects – it seems the budget would only stretch to a few stock pictures of sunsets and rippling water projected onto the back screen. Oh, and (naturally) some butterflies too. Aside from that, we just had Mariah's male dancers to look at. And like the songs, their moves were straight out of the '90s. During Mariah's costume changes (nude sequin leotard to nude sequin dress and back again), it did feel as if I had wandered into a very large hen party where the Dreamboys were performing. Still, no-one seemed to be complaining. In fact, the atmosphere was what made the night. You can't go to a Mariah Carey show and not be instantly on your feet, unselfconsciously singing the words into your neighbour's face. Six songs (and two house reds in), I turned to the stranger (now new best friend) next to me and commented on how "joyous" the room was. She agreed. But there were tears too – a digital duet with the late, great Whitney had everyone a little moist-eyed. And no-one was embarrassed about it either. But, then, there's no room for embarrassment at a Mariah Carey concert.