Whitney Houston at the Arie Crown

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
June 23, 1999

Whitney Houston is a lot of things – mother, wife, movie star, glamor queen, diva and all-around superstar. But she’s not “every woman,” as she sang Tuesday night at the Arie Crown Theatre.

Every woman hasn’t sold 100 million records, as Houston has since releasing her debut album in 1985. Nor can they sing the way she does, as evidenced by a fan who gamely tried to man the mike while Houston good-naturedly stood by.

With her mother, the great gospel and R & B singer Cissy Houston, sitting proudly in the audience, Houston kicked off her world tour in the first of two consecutive evenings at the Arie Crown Theatre. Decked out in a magnificent pair of draped trousers and a delicate coat with a train, she emerged from a staircase to a screaming audience.

Houston came well-prepared. Backed by a six-piece band, four female dancers, four backup singers and an awesome wardrobe by designers Dolce & Gabbana, Houston looked and sounded more confident than she has in years. Mixing the set list up to include newer songs from her latest album “My Love is Your Love” (her first non-soundtrack record in eight years), along with older hits such as “How Will I Know?” “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and “Saving All My Love for You,” Houston showed an amazing range that didn’t bury the simplistic honesty of the lyrics.

This was never clearer than when she showed off her gospel roots with “I Love the Lord” and “I Go to the Rock.”

She did a little preaching of her own, at the expense of tabloid journalists chronicling her relationship with her husband, singer Bobby Brown. “Isn’t there enough going on in everyone else’s home that they don’t have to worry about what’s going on in my home?” she asked.

And then, of course, there was the song: “I Will Always Love You” from “The Bodyguard” soundtrack. The audience held its collective breath to see if Houston could hit those notes. And she did, though she didn’t hold them for as long as on the recording, which to many of us was a plus.

Even detractors admit that Houston has an amazing voice, which seems to defy the logic of octaves. But she has been ridiculed in the past for her relative clumsiness onstage. Not so this time. Adopting a less-is-more approach to her dancing, Houston executed smooth, hip moves that would win Paula Abdul’s approval.

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