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Concert review: Summer's comeback tour filled with energy, pizazz
by Jessica Garcia
Aug 17, 2008 | 868 views | 0 0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
She tries to downplay her reputation and even jests at her own expense. But when all is said and done and her multi-generational subjects call for the "Queen of Disco," Donna Summer answers with style and vigor.

The Peppermill Hotel and Casino's Tuscany Ballroom on Friday was transformed from its quaint Italian elegance to a modern disco dance party that kept, at the very least, heads bobbing and toes tapping nearly the entire two hours with some audience members taking advantage of two dance floors set up on either side of the stage.

Summer showed she still reigns with a rich voice in a line-up of new hits from her comeback album, "Crayons," to some of her most beloved classics including "MacArthur Park" and "I Feel Love."

Her opening song from Crayons, "The Queen is Back," grabs attention right away with a large purple visual of a crown and Summer herself, appearing in a purple sequin dress calling out among a catchy beat.

Her musical selections from the latest album included "Stamp Your Feet," "I'm a Fire" and "Mr. Music." Summer's new "Sand on My Feet" was a soft segue from the energetic R & B and disco into a tropical pop melody she wrote based on a beautiful sunset view from her Florida cottage.

"It reminds me of why I work," she said with a laugh.

Summer spoke briefly in between songs, calling the writing of the "Crayons" album a "long, arduous process and often very painful."

"It's like when you get your first box of crayons: You get a piece of paper and you color a section. Then you discover the wall," she said, evoking laughter. "You become the incarnate of Rembrandt. This album is very important to me because I, the diva, was shaken up and fell out of this box of crayons."

As Summer performed the album's title song, which touches on all the "colors" of human emotion, her talented keyboardist belted out a solo, and then whipped out a saxophone later in the evening, a nice touch among mostly female singers, if only for a short while.

The concert that is as visually colorful as the name of her new album keeps the eyes glued to backdrops with various digital images, a dance team of three young men who move and play as marching band members and football players and Summer's stylish costume changes. The simple displays, ranging from iPods -- or rather, "iDons" to Crayola boxes that read "The 24 colors of Summer," added a creative niche to the theme of human significance and resilience, much like "Bring Down the Reign."

No song falls flat on the ears with a well-coordinated blend of her new material with the classic disco dance hits that everyone, young and old, could mouth along, wiggle to, and more often than not, inspire them to strut their stuff in and off their seats.

Toward the end, the dance areas on either side of the stage nearly ran out of room for the musically attuned, especially with the hard-hitting set of "Hard for the Money," "Bad Girls" and "Hot Stuff," the three pieces that drove nearly everyone to their feet. It was a true testament to Summer's legacy as a woman speaking out on the prominent feminist movement of the 1970s and 80s, especially with men and women alike rocking along with her.

As Summer prepared for one of her last costume changes, a surprising treat was a solo from one of her back-up singers, her own sister. Mary Gaines and Summer sang their famous duet "No More Tears (Enough is Enough)" and later, Gaines was featured in a solo, "Selah" from her first album "You Made It."

Clearly, Summer hasn't lost momentum even after 17 years of a break from songwriting and even dares to raise the bar for herself by reconnecting with old fans while stealing the hearts of younger ones. And although she urged the audience, "Don't make this diva scream -- she's but a delicate flower," she proves herself ever capable of running an entertaining show with an inspiring love of music.
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