So let's be honest: expectations weren't exactly high.

Mariah Carey's Elusive Chanteuse tour opened to a backlash of social media bile in Tokyo last month. Fans were shocked and angry to discover the sultry diva could -- seemingly -- no longer hold a note.

The YouTube videos make for agonising viewing. Like a half-strangled cat begging for the sweet release of death.

Here in New Zealand, the reception was muted. Despite the fact it was to be her first and only show in the country - after a career spanning 25 years and 18 number-one singles - the famed diva still couldn't sell out Vector Arena.

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It's fair to say that if she was the Elusive Chanteuse, many in the crowd were Apprehensive Spectators.

Personally, I was thrilled by the prospect of a vocal calamity, the musical equivalent of an Olympic gold-medallist tumbling off the beam while the crowd watches on in horror - and delight.

But as the unmistakable trill of Fantasy echoed out from backstage, any talk of Mimi's vocal demise seemed ludicrous.

Suddenly, there she was - poured into a figure-hugging, sheer sequinned gown, belting out one of the biggest hits of her career with ease.

Boom. Just like that. No messing about.

She followed it up with Touch My Body and Emotions, hitting the supersonic high notes and performing those signature vocal gymnastics with relative ease.

Does it sound exactly like the originally recording? No. Does it need to? No.

What Ms Carey can do with her voice is extraordinary - and something I, for one, had rather forgotten about.

She can give you goosebumps with a single note.

But more than that, she's entertaining. Mariah may have developed a reputation for being somewhat difficult to deal with, but on stage she's a delight. Playful and flirtatious and not afraid to make fun of herself - at one point even trying her hand at a Kiwi accent.

Perhaps the best moment came after a costume change (one of several, naturally) which saw her don a hot-pink ball gown that accentuated her rather mesmerising bosom (truly, we couldn't stop staring at it).

As she reclined on a grand piano, a bare-chested back-up dancer performed an intense interpretive dance celebrating his undying love for Mariah. It was completely farcical and yet brilliant.

For what would Mariah be if not a little over the top? She's the queen of the power ballad (of which Hero was the standout of the night) and she knows it.

It was a night of pure diva. Pure Mariah.


Review
What: Mariah Carey
Where: Vector Arena
When: Last night