We've Got Liftoff, Houston
EW Online reports on an exclusive Whitney Houston performance
The day after releasing her first studio album in eight years, "My Love Is Your Love," Whitney Houston took the ballroom stage at Manhattan's Cipriani Wall Street for a rare, big bucks, invitation-only concert performance.
Houston, who was sporting a new blond 'do, isn't touring to promote the album, but she did agree to three exclusive dates: Two last weekend at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City and this one at the posh downtown hot spot.
Amidst cigars and champagne, Houston treated a star-studded crowd of more than 500 -- including her "Bodyguard" costar Kevin Costner, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, Mary J. Blige, Arista Records president Clive Davis, and hubby, Bobby Brown -- to a selection of greatest hits mixed with a few new songs.
And while the critics blasted her Atlantic City shows, claiming a shocking "lack of professionalism" and calling her "unprepared" when she forgot the words and was unable to hit her trademark high notes, Houston was in better -- if not perfect -- form this night.
Early on, her voice seemed strained, even hoarse, forcing her to rely on her backup singers (including her brother Gary).
But the vocalist won the audience over when she explained that "My Love" had been recorded in an unprecedented six weeks, an exhausting rush that would tire the pipes of any diva.
Between renditions of "Saving All My Love For You" and "Greatest Love of All," a voice shouted out, "Sing it, girl!" "I'm trying, baby," Houston responded.
Houston's voice was especially strong on the reggae-tinged title track, which was written by the Fugees' Wyclef Jean. And she showed her maternal side when she stopped mid-tune to point out that her 5-year-old, Bobbi Kristina, had contributed a sample to the cut.
By the time Houston reached the finale, the No. 1 single from the "Bodyguard" soundtrack, "I Will Always Love You," it was clear that the crowd of models and high rollers, now on its feet, shared the sentiment.