LIFE had become too hit and miss for Diana Ross, Motown diva and Supreme supreme.

There was that fluffed penalty at the 1994 World Cup opening ceremony; the "day of humiliation" at Heathrow airport in 1999; Californian rehab in 2002 for drink and drug addiction; and the on-going saga of her 48-hour jail sentence for drink-driving.

Yet the title of her first British tour for seven years says it all. This Is It. The performance. The diva. The costumes. The elegance. The legs. The cheekbones. The Motown legend. Her stage. Her show. The other princess Diana. This is it; this is the hit.

Next Friday, Miss Ross turns 60 - her sensational figure and taut facial features would appear to be taking longer to reach the landmark - in the year that will mark the 40th anniversary of the first Supremes hit, Where Did Our Love Go. By 1967, that group had become Diana Ross and The Supremes, and the diva streak has never dimmed.

Where other pop stars, from Kylie to Madonna and Celine Dion in her Las Vegas cabaret, fill the stage with dancers and slick, camp choreography, Diana is the show. This is it: Diana. Centre stage, alone, with the musicians and backing singers almost out of sight from ringside seats.

In an age of visual overload in live performance, this is either an act of an ego as big as her hair, or just maybe a re-assertion of Miss Ross's rights to pop's throne.

The grand entrance to her raised stage, in the round, in shimmering yellow topped off by a canary-feathered head-dress, casts her into the heart of the arena, the Motown queen taking an audience with her people.

She opens with the exultant promise of Take Me Higher but speeds through an extended Sixties' Motown medley where the arrangements are too Vegas.

She looks lonely up there, then suddenly Love Hangover re-asserts that Diana's voice can fix a sensual emotion like no other.

She leaves the stage to locate a friend and baby - Baby Love indeed - but the intermission comes with no announcement from Miss Ross, and you hope that she will yet sparkle like her diamante costumes.

She does, and how. I'm Coming Out has her coming out in a red number that will later turn into the skimpiest of mini-skirts. Chain Reaction works its handbag-dancing frantic magic; Diana at last draws attention to her musicians; invites two men from ringside to join her in some Upside Down action; detours gorgeously into the blues in a Billie Holiday tribute and continues to ring the costume changes, fluffy coats and all. She ends with I Will Survive, as much a statement of intent as This Is It. Still Supreme.

Updated: 09:44 Wednesday, March 17, 2004