Mariah Carey can't quite make it happen at Nokia Theatre

GRAND PRAIRIE -- If you're going to be a diva, have the total package.

If that's not a saying among the world's elite vocal performers, it should be. And one of the first who should heed it is Mariah Carey, the five octave R&B-pop princess turned hip-hop moll and occasional actress. Her 95-minute performance Thursday night at Grand Prairie's Nokia Theatre struggled to justify starting nearly an hour late (for what it's worth, she apologized -- vaguely -- and alluded to nearly not being there at all; perhaps that would've been better). Carey also suffered from her tendency to ramble between songs -- when she wasn't disappearing for minutes at a time for costume changes.

Endearing? Perhaps. But a little daffy behavior goes a long, long way.

Amid plugs for her forthcoming remix album, Angels Advocate, which recasts last year's Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, and an unreleased line of champagne, Angel Rose (a theme?), Carey dabbed herself dry with tissues, allowed her hair and makeup team to perform an onstage touch-up and cooed at fans straining to reach across the barrier down front.

Infuriating distractions aside, Carey also sang. Rather than simply mime along to a backing track and amp up the splashy choreography, Carey really, truly did sing -- she hardly moved at all during the often vocally challenging numbers, whether it was a vintage track ( Make It Happen, which she missed most of) or something more recent ( It's Like That).

The surprisingly tasteful stage was decked out with her trio of backup singers, four-piece band and nine dancers.

Twenty years after her debut, Carey continues to exude an almost coquettish sexuality, mingled with a street-wise sensibility and pious songbird tendencies. She didn't shy away from indulging in the much-vaunted whistle register; Carey also didn't seem to notice the occasionally sloppy dance routines transpiring around her (or the blatant "Pink du Soleil" swipe during Angels Cry).

Maybe the tour, as it nears the finish line (only four dates left!), is showing signs of fatigue. Particularly during the first few songs, Carey seemed a bit adrift. She pulled it together, kind of, toward the end, emerging for a valedictory version of her signature hit Hero. It seems even divas, real or pretend, can have a really off night.

Preston Jones is the Star-Telegram's pop music critic. 817-390-7713