Mariah Carey made a grand entrance, singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” high above the Madison Square Garden audience in a red sleigh.
    But her exit, on the arm of husband Nick Cannon, after singing a gorgeous version of “Hero” said so much more about her remarkable New Year’s Eve show. After doing things all on her own for so long, the Greenlawn native has someone to lean on again and it suits her.
    On opening night of her “Angels Advocate” tour, Carey was far more relaxed and casual than usual. Maybe it was the champagne talking or the night’s festive atmosphere, but when she sang, “I don’t know the words” after the first line of “Auld Lang Syne” and then proceeded to vamp her way through the rest of it, she revealed a new, less guarded side to ring in 2010.
    It’s not that there was anything wrong with the first half of the show. Opening with the slinky, midtempo R&B ballads “Shake It Off” and “Touch My Body” that have been her bread and butter in recent years, Carey showed early on that she was in voice and good spirits. “Some people like my slow songs and some people like my fast songs,” she joked, introducing her new ballad “H.A.T.E.U.” “It all gets so confusing.”
    However, if her amazing struggles and triumph this decade prove anything, it’s that she is far from confused. With a now promising acting career, her successful fragrance line and her reignited music career, Carey, who announced that she will be releasing a new remix album “soon,” knows exactly what she needs to do to connect with her audience. And it was only fitting that the final full song she sang before the end of The Aughts was the decade’s biggest hit, “We Belong Together.”
    Yet her show only got more entertaining after that. She strolled the stage, glass of champagne in hand, singing the reggae-tinged “Migrate” and the party among the remainders of a fireworks display, a balloon drop and confetti cannons kicked into high gear during “Emotions,” which included a loose, entertaining line dance.
    “I’m so excited to be at The Garden on New Year’s Eve in my hometown,” Carey said early on. It was that new sense of excitement that made for quite a memorable evening.

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SETLIST: All I Want for Christmas Is You (Remix) / Shake It Off / Touch My Body / H.A.T.E.U. / Make It Happen / Angels Cry / Subtle Invitation / It’s Like That / Trey Lorenz - Rock With You / Love Hangover/Heartbreaker / We Belong Together / Fantasy / Auld Lang Syne / Obsessed / Migrate / More Than Just Friends / Emotions / Hero

PHOTO: Mariah Carey and her dancers at Madison Square Garden on New Year's Eve by Getty Images.