None of the music in Mariah Carey’s 100-minute show is particularly enthralling or extraordinary, but the fact that she has assembled a well-designed and well-paced show that emphasizes the beauty of her voice is nothing short of remarkable. When she was on top of the world — pre-“Glitter” — Carey’s L.A. perf was a train wreck; she was as unfocused as the overblown show. Current tour is the first indication in her 14-year career that she can succeed as a live act.
By keeping it light and simple — and wisely getting her bearings straight in theaters rather than arenas, where the Charmbracelet tour was originally routed — Carey alternates between glamorous and playful, inspirational and reflective. It’s a family show in many ways, with sets inspired by Paris’ Moulin Rouge, the circus and the night sky. The dancers, nine of them, fill the stage with moves and fashions that are more “Rent” than risque.
And as much as Carey’s latest disc, “Charmbracelet” (Monarc/Island), veers deeper into hip-hop than most of her previous work, current show stays grounded in her trademark pop. In her version of Def Leppard’s “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak,” she uncharacteristically ventures into arena rock, a move that’s about as far afield as she can go.
Even with six costume changes — all of her wardrobe shows off her well-toned body — the emphasis remains on her voice. Portions of raps and instrumentation are obviously prerecorded, but when Carey lets it rip, it’s all her: Strong and assured, she’s able to climb octaves with grace and never slips into the vibrato that so many of her contemporaries overuse.
Few artists have fallen from the mountaintop like Carey: a much publicized divorce after a high-profile marriage; public displays of instability; being dropped by two labels; and the release of a movie, “Glitter,” that needed “Gigli” to exist to prove there could be worse.
She wants the fans to know she’s all right. Nearly all the songs Carey performs reflect on a positive state of mind and her will to persevere — eventually one has to wonder if she gets her lyrics from self-empowerment books and Cosmopolitan articles. “Through the Rain,” “My Own,” “Can’t Take That Away” — those form half the Mariah story, leaving the other half to love songs — “Dreamlover,” “Subtle Invitation,” “Always Be My Baby.”
Carey performs Sept. 18 at Radio City Music Hall.