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‘Diana Ross: Her Life, Love and Legacy’ review – ‘A stirring time capsule of one of music’s most iconic performances’

The film of the legendary singer's storm-hit 1983 Central Park concert will be screened at 250 cinemas across the UK and Ireland on 26 March.

By Will Stroude

“This rain is for the flowers – it’s only gonna make us grow!”

Oasis at Knebworth. Madonna’s Blond Ambition. Freddie Mercury and Queen at Live Aid. Some performances don’t just go down as historic spectacles for fans to enjoy, but instead come to embody a time in popular culture itself.

Diana Ross’s record-breaking, storm-hit concert in Central Park in the summer of 1983 undoubtedly ranks among those performances.

The charity concert on 21 July, 1983 was then the largest single concert to ever take place on the on the Great Lawn, as more than 800,000 people flooded into the park to see their idol against the backdrop of Reagan-era Manhattan.

At 39, Ms. Ross was already a superstar of global proportions, but what would unfold over following 24 hours would help cement a legacy that’s stood for more than half a century. 

Diana Ross: Her Life, Love and Legacy brings Ross’s ill-fated concert and stunning comeback show to the big screen for the first time to coincide with the legendary diva’s 75th birthday next Tusday (26 March).

Set to be screened for one night only on 26 March at more than 250 cinemas across the UK, Ireland and Europe, the documentary provides a stirring time capsule of one of music’s most memorable evenings.

As the hazy summer heatwave broke and a treacherous storm descended, Ms. Ross refused to bow to the elements, battling apocalyptic rainfall and winds of up to 50mph as she insisted the show must go on.

When the threat of lightening was reported, however, the legendary diva was forced to stop the show – but defeat was by no means conceded: Promising to return the following day to finish her set, Ross remained on stage, continuing to sing as she helped direct fans to safety.

Her triumphant return to Central Park the next day in front of a crowd of equal magnitude cemented Ross’s status as one of the world’s most resiliant stars, and that’s saying nothing of the show itself, which sees the singer control of a crowd of almost a million with the simple power of her voice.

Diana Ross: Her Life, Love and Legacy perfectly captures the crackling sense of occasion that night in Central Park: Featuring beautifully-remastered footage from the abandoned show and the full concert the following day, it offers a rare chance to immerse yourself in a part of music history.

Exclusive opening commentary from Ross’s daughters Tracee Ellis, Rhonda and Chudney and rare archive footage establish the sense of occasion as Ross, then celebrating more than a decade as the queen of disco-soul, takes to the stage.

The image of Ross delivering ‘Touch (Somebody’s Hand)’ as gale-force winds whip her hair and shawl, goddess-like, around the stage remains an unforgettable image almost 40 years later. Shots of the rain-lashed crowd’s unbroken optimism also serve as a poingnant reminder that the heady optimism of the disco decade was about to come to a close with the arrival of the AIDS crisis just two short years later.

Diana Ross might have proved at the Billboard Music Awards that she can still perform witht he best of them, but the film demonstates her indomitable stage presence at the height of her powers.

Classics like ‘I’m Coming Out’, ‘Upside Down’, and ‘Ain’t no Mountain High Enough’ have never sounded better, while the closing number of the second, completed gig – a tearful rendition of 1979’s ‘All For One’ – remind you that Ms Ross, both as a person and performer, has an uncanny ability to bring people together like few have exhibited since.

Diana Ross: Her Life, Love and Legacy will be screened on 26 March for one night only in 250 cinemas across the UK & Ireland and in select European countries. To find your nearest screening and to book tickets click here.