Oh no!!!!

Review: Mariah Carey and Her Can’t-Look-Away Debut in Las Vegas

On Wednesday night, Ms. Carey performed for a largely difficult two hours at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace here, the first show in what’s to be a two-year residency totaling more than 50 concerts. That she’s embarking upon something like this is already a sign of defeat: The show consists of her 18 No. 1 Billboard hits, and the last of those came in 2008. (There’s a new song, too, called “Infinity” — it won’t be No. 19.)

But Ms. Carey, 45, has long had a taste for the outsized and gauche, and Vegas, with its grandeur and glitz, seemed like just the place to find redemption. Her portrait, airbrushed and glamorous, graces the covers of Las Vegas and Vegas Player magazines, which are laid out on coffee tables in hotel rooms across town. Last month, at the rollout event for her residency, she arrived in a pink 1936 convertible trailed by 18 billboard trucks bearing the names of each of the hits she would be performing. Maybe the new performance spectacle could resurrect the old vocal spectacle.

When it came to the notes, though, the struggle was real. From the beginning of the night, she was tentative and inconsistent. She sang parts of several songs an octave lower than the recordings. Often she appeared to be holding back, as if to build up to a big moment, only to shy away from it. As she’s aged, her voice has gotten huskier, but sometimes the rasp felt like a glitch, not a goal.