The Donna Summer Tribute Site

Carnegie Hall - March 16, 1998
A Fan's Perspective

by Cathy (told in my usual irreverent style - hey, it's MY site!! Indulge me!!)

Oh boy!! Where to start!! I guess the beginning is the best place, so here goes... :-)

My companions and I arrived at Carnegie Hall fairly early to pick up the tickets. We wandered around outside for awhile and eventually wound up by the stage door - right in time for Donna's band to take a cigarette break. Thanks to my friend Patty, we got to talk to John Billings - Donna's bass player. He was a really nice guy and he told us that they've only been playing sporadic dates because of Donna's work on her play. He did say that they will be playing Scottsdale Arizona in April, and Caesar's Palace in Atlantic City at the end of May. (So everyone start making your concert plans now!!)

Then it was back to the nice warm theater to wait for the gates to open. I have to say that Carnegie Hall is smaller than I expected. Standing in the lobby waiting for the gates to open is not something I'd recommend to the claustrophobic! But it was a great place to people watch, and I did run into someone I knew there. As for the theater itself, I don't think it's well suited for a single performer - in terms of being able to see that is. I was seated up on the fourth level and I found it difficult to see Donna when she was center stage, and impossible to see her when she was stage right. Also, the rows of seats are set up at a very steep angle which I found a little disconcerting. (Ok - so I have a thing about heights!)

But forget the theater - it was DONNA I was there to see. And she put on an AWESOME show!! In addition to her band, she was also accompanied by a 22 piece orchestra which just made everything sound bigger and fuller. After the band played the overture, Donna came out and sang "MacArthur Park", which is just a great song to open up with. It really showcased her voice and set the right tone for the evening. Needless to say the crowd went wild! She followed that with "Could It Be Magic" and then "On The Radio," which really got the crowd singing along. As my friend Phil said, everyone in the world turns into Donna Summer when they sing that song. (That would make me guilty as charged!! - You should hear me in the car - actually you SHOULDN'T!! It's downright frightening!!)

She followed that with "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" which had to be the highlight of the night!! Let me just say that I've heard that song hundreds of times. Donna's done it many times, and I've heard so many other versions by other performers as well. But this time was special. As I heard the lyrics, all of a sudden it dawned on me how appropriate the words were for the occasion. After so many years of being ostracized by the gay community because of an unproven rumor, here was Donna onstage at a GMHC benefit being welcomed back with open arms. Lyrics like "the truth is I never left you," "I kept my promise, don't keep your distance," and "I love you and hope you love me," suddenly became so much more poignant and personal. I found it deeply moving, and I know I'm not alone in this. I've heard from grown men who said they cried when they heard the song. And the audience was so enthusiastic that at times it managed to drown Donna out. It was the most incredible thing I've ever seen at a Donna concert.

That was followed with "This Time I Know It's For Real", and a new song from her upcoming musical Ordinary Girl called "No Ordinary Love Song." She's been doing this song in concert for almost a year now, and it's really an incredible duet. The only thing is, she usually sings it with a man named Michael Mallet, who for some reason wasn't at this concert. So Donna sang it with Gene Miller instead. That's Ok if you never heard it with Michael - he has a better voice, one that works much better with Donna's voice. Gene Miller is ok, but I really missed Michael Mallet. In fact I spent the first moments of the song (which I LOVE, by the way) asking my companions what happened to Michael. (Like they were gonna know - right?)

That was followed by an old Charlie Chaplin tune called "Smile", the "My Man Medley" (remember that from Live And More?), "Enough Is Enough" (who needs Barbra? - I'm KIDDING!!), "Dim All The Lights" (an "unplugged" version and her usual dance version), "She Works Hard For The Money," "Hot Stuff'," "Bad Girls," "My Life" (also from the musical) and finally "Last Dance." (But you KNEW that would be the closing song, didn't you?)

It was a wonderful show. Donna was in such a good mood, cracking jokes at every opportunity. In fact, right before she sang the "My Man Medley," she asked someone to bring her out a stool so she could sit down. Well, Bruce brought one out, and then Donna discovered that she couldn't sit down in the dress she was wearing. She gave it her best shot, but there was just no way that she could sit on that stool in that dress. Of course that generated laughter from both Donna and the audience. As Bruce took the stool away again, Donna cracked, "It's hard getting older when you're a diva!" Later, the stool was brought out again for another song and Donna just glared at it for awhile in mock annoyance. A few people shouted out, "Go ahead Donna, you can do it!" But she opted instead to lean against it ala Marilyn Monroe.

The crowd was in high spirits as well. People were yelling and applauding so much that they drown out Donna at times. There were people dancing in front of the stage, and more than a few brave souls were dancing in the upper levels. I say "brave" because I got vertigo every time I stood up, so I couldn't even imagine dancing up there. I kept getting visions of toppling over the edge and landing on someone's head! After the show, everyone remained in good spirits. I saw total strangers comparing notes on what they had just seen, and I saw people so overcome by the whole experience that they were at a loss for words. Plus I ran into some more friends, and I got an idea of just how many tapes there may turn out to be of this event!

Later, when the Carnegie staff "threw us out" of the lobby (well, I guess they're entitled to close up and go home) my companions and I wandered around to the stage door. There were about a dozen other fans there as well, waiting for Donna. At one point, Donna's security director (who by the way is VERY nice! - The security guys at my job should be that nice!) told us that it was too cold for Donna to stand around and sign autographs (which it was, I have the frozen hands to prove it!) but he promised that Donna would pose for a few pictures before she got in the limo. A few minutes later we saw Bruce and all three of Donna's daughter's leave the theater (and Mimi had even brought her baby daughter to the show with her) and then as promised, Donna came out and posed for pictures. It was great!!

Now that I see that I've practically written a book about the concert, just let me wind this up by saying that I'm SO glad that I went. I hadn't originally planned to be there because of my work schedule. What was I thinking??? That show was not to be missed, and I'm so glad that my fellow AOLers managed to convince me to go. I think it was the kind of night that down the road I'll look back on and brag to whoever will listen that I was THERE!! :-)))

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