So I thought I would be real modern and hip and post tweets from the show (I did a few) and blog a report right afterwards. Like last Saturday! Needless to say, that did not happen. I blame my old age primarily. But also the fact that I had to race to Phoenix and back on little sleep in the midst of covering a Singapore meeting for ICANN's website (which means I've been on a night shift since last Thursday). I'm exhausted. Mr. Cher Scholar drove us to Phoenix Friday afternoon. We got in late and literally slept in our clothes.
Saturday we got up early to do a Chastity movie location tour with Cher scholar Robrt Pela. Robrt is not an arena Cher fan; he's a 1960s Cher fan and an obscure-stuff Cher fan. He had just written about it in the Phoneix New Times and in a story for NPR. It was great to meet Robrt after all these years. Although we don't agree about every aspect of Cher product, we do connect on many intellectual aspects of being a Cher fan. Robrt has been doing Cher scholarship on the movie locations for Chastity and was very generous to give us a tour of all the locations he's found so far. Mr. Cher Scholar even expressed interest in watching the movie again. It was serendipitous that we randomly found a hotel (near the venue) that was right in the filming hood for Chastity.
Afterwards, we hooked up with my bff from LA and her boyfriend. We went to dinner at a St. Louis style place in Scottsdale (Julie and I both grew up in STL) and had toasted ravioli, St. Louis-style pizza and ooey-gooey buttercake. We got to the venue an hour ahead and crowds were milling outside because they weren't letting anyone in yet.
We killed time standing in line to get a group photo with Cher impersonators. We then stood in line to get in. We then stood in line to get swag. There was no lunch box there yet so I'm glad I ordered mine from the online Cher store. There was mostly t-shirts and posters. Some small kitch: mugs, keychains and a lanyard for $20! There were no buttons or magnets. Phooey. I got four tshirts, two tour shirts, the 60s-style one and the shirt with my favorite Norman Seeff Cher photo on it. That picture was also available in poster (sweet!) and there was also a tour poster and one of those funky posters that changes when you move in front of it. I have it sitting on its side now and it shows Cher half-blonde-half-brunette. There's also a program, colorful and high-quality per usual but no intro text inside. However, the back of the book does have a funny Cher message full of mea culpas for returning with another tour after her farewell shows.
It took so long to get everyone in the venue that Pat Benetar didn't start until about 8:30 or later. She kicked ass, by the way. She made a believer out of Mr. Cher Scholar who always thought she was sub-par. Her mercilessly made fun of Neil Geraldo before the show. Said if I ever did poetry readings, he wanted co-billing. But their show made him a changed man. It appeared even Pat Benetar and Neil Geraldo were a bit surprised at how supportive the Cher fans were. We knew all the songs.
When I was a kid, my brothers were into Pat Benetar and disparaged my Cher obsession. This was back when Cher didn't even have a slot in the local record stores and Benetar was filling arenas. How surreal then it was to see Pat Benetar open for Cher. It was a perfect opening act, full of energy, hard rocking, highlighting both Cher's love of rock and serving as a tasty raw contrast to the spectacle of Cher's show.
Benetar opened with my favorite song of hers, "Shadows of the Night" and did all my favorite hits, "We Belong," "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," "Heartbreaker."
Then it was almost another hour (it seemed) more waiting for Cher! The old people around us (and there were quite a few) were really sweatin' it out.
Mr. Cher Scholar at the show. Blurry pic of an impersonator walking around.
Apparently, according to Cher, she was having a meltdown back stage because nothing fit. She started at 10:20, finally coming on over the loudspeaker, asking, "Can you guys hear me?" She made a Hoveround joke and said, "If you’re gonna grade the show, grade it on the f*cking curve."
And here is the spoiler alert. If you don't want to see pics of the show and a set list, do not proceed.
She opened with "Woman’s World." What a relief to have a different opening. Maybe I wouldn’t have picked that song to start but I liked it, very high NRG. There was almost a curtain snafu behind which she appeared on a pedestal with a headdress of big feathers (reminded me of her Caesars Palace opening in 1982). Her seat belt (see left) looks like a Cher doll stand. The first outfit looked like an Egyptian pharaoh.
She followed with "Strong Enough." Two "strong enough" songs in a row seemed too similar too soon. I didn't love the opening outfits or the shields randomly bobbing around. But they were all happily sparkly. They just weren't luxurious enuff. I did love the hanging lights and the set. Loved the set, the darkness, the detail, it seemed more compact that her previous arena shows.
In her rambling monologue she talked about her meltdown backstage, Kim Kardashian's ass, how surprised she was to see everyone again and how she was the show’s weakest link. Surprisingly, she didn't formally start the show with something like, "And here is the beginning of the show."
I absolutely loved the theatrical, creepy intro for "Dressed to Kill." My friend Julie had noticed candelabras peeking out of the stage side while we were all waiting. I loved how they were used and the low chandelier Cher sat on and her costume and wig for this number…all this was notch above.
There was a big Sonny component to the show. First came a video to the song "Little Man" with a montage of Sonny & Cher in the 1960s. This was followed by a video to the song "All I Ever Need is You" (sweet!) with a montage of clips from their television shows. I found this one very moving (I'm sure the song helped).
She followed that with another duet with Sonny on "I Got You Babe" this time using a big video screen for a big Sonny head and edited footage to make it look like he was singing down to her little self on stage.
My friends were touched by this.
I also loved the tweaked carnival set for "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" and "Dark Lady." I liked the dancers playing various carnival parts, the man on stilts, the weight lifter, etc. It made the ramblingness of their movements feel organic.
My friends loved the new colorful "Half Breed" outfit.
The movie montage this time includes Good Times and Chastity.
The "Welcome to Burlesque" was sharp and sexy, as sexy as an arena show can be...without any intimacy. "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me" was a real treat. Not because I love the song but because she started over! Just like Lucinda Williams. I can’t say why but that was rock-n-roll cool.
What's a Cher show without big props (wagons, combs, an elephant or shoe)? Loved the big Trojan Horse for "Take it Like a Man." I have to say the new album numbers are much fun live. I loved the classic outfit for this number.
Another video montage came up of Cher as a child. She talked about singling with her mom and uncle (and Tito Puente and Hank Williams songs in the house) and talked about what Elvis means to her, including the video of her singing "Heartbreak Hotel" from Divas Live. She said she saw Elvis play at the Pan Pacific Theater in LA (they filmed Xanadu there, too).
In a black pantsuit ensemble that I loved, Cher sang "Walking in Memphis," went in search of her Dr. Pepper and then sang "Just Like Jesse James (with preamble about not liking it), some discussion about swearing and then did "Heart of Stone." The pantsuit numbers were similar to her dressed down segments on the Do You Believe? Tour and Farewell Tour.
My friends did not like the pantsuit but I loved it. Julie said I loved it only because it had bellbottoms. Fair enough. It wasn't until here in the show that I noticed the woman playing bass guitar. Very cool! Cher left the stage but there seemed to be a wardrobe malfunction because she ran back onstage barefoot to do "The Shoop Shoop Song." The she left and her backup singers sang "Bang Bang" while a montage video played of her singing the song on other tours.
The interesting thing about Cher shows is you never see her come and go. She just appears and disappears.
She returned in yet another variation of her hole fit (this time in a big Drag Queen wig) and sang "I Found Someone," and "Turn Back Time." This made my Geffen-era loving friends around us very happy. Sailor hats flew onstage and she kicked one. But stage hands ran around furiously trying to pick them up as she sang. Apparently, she slipped on one in Las Vegas.
If you've seen the documentary on Michael Jackson's last tour, This Is It, you saw the special effects where dancers bounced up onstage from below. Cher dancers did this for the start of "Believe."
I loved these "Believe" costumes and their color, the cartoon Mars look. Julie said it reminded her of Jem cartoons. Of all the Believe-fits, this is my favorite.
Another treat was seeing another finale besides the 15-year old "Believe." Cher came out as a saint in a gothic frame. She flew out around the floor of the arena singing "I Hope You Find It." A self-referential change from "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." As if to say, I haven't found it but I hope you have better luck.
This bit was described as generous and spectacular and it was amazing watching hands reach up from the crowd to the light as she passed by. My friend Christopher expressed shock that she would attempt such a stunt this far in her career. It was a sight that even came across as sublime on my crappy iPhone pics:
How nice it is always to be in a room of thousands of people who love Cher. I couldn't have imagined this when I was 8 years old in 1978.
She played until about 12:20. My friends were impressed. Although some of the show was recycled from Caesars and Farewell....only some. It was different enough to please diehards. I loved the darker elements of the staging. I loved some of the costumes. The opener wasn't Mackie quality--but I thought the show was overall better than her other arena shows. No big song surprises. Nothing outrageous like "Alfie." But the self-deprecating camp was smart (the pedestal, the saint flyover). According to the tour book, lots of the crew have changed. But I think this is a good thing. You gotta shake things up, even with Cherfits.
Stacy Campbell & Nikki Tillman did the backup singing duties. Paul Mirkovich is back as musical director, brother-in-law Ed Bartylak doing security, Paulette and Georganne listed as "Charges D’Affaires." Dorianna Sanchez is back for concept and choreography. For lighting, no more No Claire Bros – now using Silent House (my mother will be disappointed; Claire Bros were out of the small town where she lives). New video designer – Geodezik. New wig designer – Serena Radaelli.
Reviews have been good:
And while it wasn't without its imperfections, Cher still managed to pull off a spectacular opening-night show in front of a sold-out, multi-generational crowd that adored her every word and move. The occasional vocal miscues (a side effect of opening-night jitters, perhaps) were easily forgiven, as they brought the concert an endearing level of realism that is sometimes lacking in super-synchronized, big-production arena concerts.
Cher slipped into a revealing black bodysuit similar to the one she famously wore in her 1989 video "If I Could Turn Back Time." "This is what the outfit was made for," Cher said, driving the audience into such a frenzy that ticketholders in one main floor section attempted to rush the stage.
Endearing level of realism. See?
It was the kind of happily profane and blunt talk that is one of Cher's trademarks. One of her others, of course, is the larger-than-life live performance, which she mastered during her days as a Vegas headliner starting in the late 1970s. It was evident there was no change in that department, either, as soon as Cher appeared on top of a pedestal in an Egyptian-themed outfit, sporting a towering headdress. It was crazy in just the right way.
The evening's most emotional moment occurred when she talked about ex-hubby Sonny Bono, who died in 1998. She reminisced about how he loved to be on stage, then sang "I Got You Babe" as a virtual duet as black-and-white footage of Sonny appeared on a giant video screen. For fans of a certain age, the segment could make you reach for a Kleenex.
Looking at the diversity of the crowd, Cher's fans come from all demographics. There were people in their 20s and folks who were clearly older than the star. Seemingly all of them were on their feet for a neon-hued production of the dance-floor filler "Believe," in which she wore a pink wig while her dancers surrounded her and two aerialists hovered above.
If it seemed like the show couldn't top that moment, then came the encore, in which she floated above the crowd on a pedestal that drifted around the arena while she sang "I Hope You Find It." It was essentially Cher's grand-slam moment, which left audience members open-mouthed in wonder. On her last tour, she dared her fellow female singers, "Follow this, bitches!" Really, how can they?
Even without a curve, the night was a solid A+.
Monday night, Cher took the stage at Toyota Center on her second stop on the "Dressed to Kill" final farewell tour. It really will be a shame if this is her goodbye to the stage, because at age 67, she absolutely kicked the shit out of it.
Cher had them in the palm of her hand from the get-go, but she still managed to make herself just a little bit more accessible. It was way cute.
And age is clearly just a number: At 67, she wowed the audience with exact vocal execution, and she looked fabulous doing it. She can even still pull off her outfits of yesteryear — like a costume Wednesday night that was strikingly reminiscent of her black, barely-there leotard from the “If I Could Turn Back Time” video.
If this really was goodbye, Cher went out with a bang.
Fans have been posting pics. Check out these sites:
This is Cher in the back seat driving back to Albuquerque with us.