Mariah Carey’s new Las Vegas residency is called “The Butterfly Returns.” She opens the show, which began July 5, with the bouncy hit “Honey,” the memorable lead single from her 1997 album also called “Butterfly.” It was memorable in part because the “Honey” video had the pop star playing the role of a captured secret agent who escapes from handcuffs, dives into a sparkling pool, resurfaces in a golden bikini and swipes a jet ski to complete her tropical liberation.
Many observed this was more than just musical fun as Carey had recently divorced Sony Music executive Tommy Mottola and assumed more creative control over her career; she was moving away from the pop ballads that made her one of the best-selling artists of all time and incorporating more elements of R&B and hip-hop into her sound.
It’s similarly fitting that her new Vegas show starts with “Honey,” because although it’s in the same venue as her initial two-year residency at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace, “The Butterfly Returns” is all about what Carey wants right now and not just speedily singing through her 18 chart-toppers in the “No 1 to Infinity” concert series. She sounded confident and relaxed in her July 7 performance, a collection of hits and favorites that felt glamorous but more intimate and personal than the residency she wrapped last year.
Carey communicated more with her fans between songs, explaining she’s working on a new album before launching into the motivational groove of “Make It Happen.” She happily shared that 1995 favorite “Always Be My Baby” has a “whole different meaning” now that it’s become a song she sings to twins Monroe (“Roe Roe”) and Moroccan (“Rocky”) and the kids once again joined her onstage during the track’s second verse. She still hits those ridiculous high notes during “Emotion” and brings longtime backup Trey Lorenz and musical director Daniel Moore front and center to perform “One Sweet Day.”
Carey performed a particularly strong rendition of “Can’t Let Go,” which peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1992, a great midtempo track that didn’t fit into the number-ones-only format of her previous production. She’s obviously happy to have more flexibility with the setlist, also incorporating “Can’t Take That Away (Mariah’s Theme)” from here seventh studio album “Rainbow.” That inspirational ballad was under-promoted by her label upon its initial release but remains a fan favorite, as clarified by the Colosseum crowd’s sing-along.
Carey’s current closing routine blends Diana Ross’ “Love Hangover” with her own disco’d up “Heartbreaker”; brings fans onstage for a toast during “Touch My Body”; gets even more fans up out of their seats for 2005 smash “We Belong Together” and finally closes with “Hero.” Her voice was consistently strong throughout a simplified show with fewer big set pieces, props and choreography, allowing the star to shine the way she wants.
Mariah Carey performs at 8 p.m. July 10, 14 and 15 at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace (3570 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 866-227-5983) and more information can be found at thecolosseum.com. She returns August 31-September 10.