We’re thinking back on a couple of divas we recently saw performing in big arenas, Debbie Harry and Madonna. Both did this thing that always gives us goosebumps when we’re part of a gigantic audience: They pointed the hand mic in our general direction and encouraged us to join in at key moments during a number, or simply had us sing a chorus all by ourselves. In glorious, multitudinous unison. Debbie thrust her mic out during “The Tide Is High” and was met with the melodic “Oh no-oh-oh-oh” she wanted to hear. Many times. Madonna did the same with “Hung Up,” though perhaps not as charmingly as Harry, insisting we repeat ever louder “Time goes by – so slowly.” We happily obeyed. The now-common phenomenon got us wondering if pre-rock divas ever encouraged audience participation. Did Marlene Dietrich even once cock the mic haphazardly away from her mouth to implore the crowd to fill in at “I can’t help it,” which their lips were mouthing anyway? Did Judy cajole her audience to provide the “clang clang clang,” “ding ding ding,” and “zing zing zing” portions of her concerts? And Liza with a Z, did it ever go like this with her?
Liza: (Sings) Somewhere…. (Stops, points mic) Where?
Audience: Over the rainbow!
Liza: Where? (Points mic)
Audience: Way up high!
Liza: WHERE? (Cups hand to ear)
Audience: (Imperceptibly louder) Way up high!
Liza: (To orchestra) Stop the music, boys. (To audience) That’s REALLY TERRIFIC! But I can’t hear you. Where’s that rainbow?
Audience: (Shouts) Way up high!
Liza: I still can’t hear you! For Mama!
Audience: WAY UP HIGH!
(Band starts up again, Liza pulls gayest man in front row wearing inappropriate muscle-T onto the stage to sit with her on the apron, where she finishes the song with her arm around him.)