CHER has been a would-be has-been for so long that it’s hard to remember a time when she wasn’t proving she’s still got it.
On Monday night, nearly a decade after the conclusion of her so-called farewell tour in 2005, the 68-year-old pop legend brought a new road show to Staples Center. The arena was full, and so was the stage — with acrobatic dancers, a seven-piece band and, for one sequence, the detailed makings of a late-19th-century circus. The tour’s name, D2K (for Dressed to Kill), ensured an array of extravagant costumes as well.
“It’s really nothing,” Cher said with a wave to her surroundings following an opening number that paired her thumping empowerment anthems “Woman’s World” and “Strong Enough.” Then she pivoted, happily owning up to the concert’s deluxe spectacle: “What’s your granny doing tonight?”
Of course, age — and the low expectations attached to it — are just the latest in a series of obstacles Cher has faced over the course of a long career in show business. Halfway through Monday’s 90-minute performance, she strung together “Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves,” “Dark Lady” and “Half-Breed” — hits from the early ’70s about various cultural outsiders — before playing a collection of movie clips that reminded you how many other misfits she’s portrayed onscreen.
The message was clear: Whether it was her low voice, her unconventional beauty or a sense of candor uncommon in glad-handing Hollywood, Cher has always been battling some perceived liability — a superstar presenting herself as a marginalized figure.
“I don’t think that this means that I am somebody,” she said in the 1988 Oscar speech that ended that clip reel. “But I guess I’m on my way.”
That viewpoint has resounded with younger singers such as Lady Gaga, whose entire artistic mission is about channeling the energy of the outcast. (It also made for a natural fit between Cher and Cyndi Lauper, who opened Monday’s show with a set of durable tunes from her 1983 debut, “She’s So Unusual.”)
But where Gaga turns that alienation into a kind of cartoonish triumphalism, Cher doesn’t get too terribly excited about it. For all the glitter and high-tech pageantry — the enormous feathered headdress, the aerialists balled up inside two miniature planets, the moving platform she rode above the audience toward the back of the venue — her concert felt reassuringly human, even low-key at points. It gave you a sense of the woman beneath the bedazzled loincloth.
Early in the show, she told a story about being disappointed by a present she’d received from the corporate honchos behind one of her favorite beverages, Dr Pepper. “Is this an appropriate gift for an icon?” she asked, holding up a six-pack-sized cooler for the judgment of the crowd.
Cher and Sam Elliott star in the biopic “Mask,” which did well at the box office. Her role earned her the 1985 Cannes Film Festival Award for best actress.
Later she admitted she never liked her song “Just Like Jesse James” (but sang it anyway) and described “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” as “the beast” for its demanding vocal leaps. One of two songs she did from her generally unloved 2010 movie musical “Burlesque,” the heaving power ballad did indeed put up a fight as things got a bit warbly in the middle (perhaps only to demonstrate that she was singing live).
Cher pushed through to the end, though, then donned a crimped blond wig for the ebullient disco jam “Take It Like a Man,” from her appealing 2013 album, “Closer to the Truth.” Given the record’s relatively low impact on the pop scene, she spent more time on it than expected; there was also “I Hope You Find It,” an earnest benediction originally recorded by Miley Cyrus, and, inevitably, the pulsating “Dressed to Kill.”
But Cher, scheduled to play Anaheim’s Honda Center on Wednesday, reached back too for “The Beat Goes On” and “I Got You Babe,” both of which she sang as duets with black-and-white footage of her late partner and husband, Sonny Bono. And she led her fans in fist-pumping singalongs of “If I Could Turn Back Time” and “Believe,” each crucial to previous Cher comebacks.
Should we expect another of those sometime after the D2K tour wraps in November? On Monday, she advised against it, insisting that her current show is her final go-round. Then this wily survivor gave a wink the entire arena could see.
1. The costumes were as fabulous — and as numerous — as you’d imagine. Cher took the stage wearing an enormous feathered headdress that suggested Brazil’s Carnival set in ancient Egypt. But that was only the first in a series of elaborate get-ups that also included a sparkly red mini-dress, a bedazzled loincloth and a sheer black bodysuit, the last of which she wore while dancing inside a chandelier. Cher closed the show dressed as a sort of cross between the Virgin Mary and the queen of a futuristic space colony.
2. Imagine the casting notices for Cher’s dancers. In addition to moving through some fairly robust choreography, they were expected Monday to handle Cirque du Soleil-style aerial work and engage in costumed stage combat — all while making Cher look like the superstar. During an extended circus sequence set to “Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves,” one dancer walked on stilts, another balanced his body on one arm and a third — perhaps the hardiest of all — hid her face behind a scraggly brown beard.
3. “Closer to the Truth,” Cher’s album from 2013, is worth discovering if you missed it when it came out. At Staples she peppered a handful of tunes from the disc among her classics, and they all sounded pretty great, particularly the throbbing “Take It Like a Man,” which accompanied a set piece built around a Trojan horse, and “I Hope You Find It,” a sympathetic power ballad previously recorded by Miley Cyrus.
4. Cher is nobody’s mouthpiece. After the one-two punch of “Woman’s World” and “Strong Enough” that opened the show with an athletic flourish, the singer took a restorative sip of her beloved Dr Pepper — then ripped into the makers of the soft drink for failing to recognize her status at a recent concert in Dallas, near the beverage’s corporate headquarters. Look at this sad little cooler, she said (in slightly more colorful language), holding up a promotional item she said she’d been given backstage. “Is this an appropriate gift for an icon?”
5. Though she’s been vocal about her distaste for “Burlesque” — “It wasn’t a good film,” she told me last fall — Cher wasn’t above performing two songs from the 2010 movie musical: “Welcome to Burlesque,” presented as it was on screen, and “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me,” which she called “the beast” for its demanding vocal leaps. You can guess who slayed whom.
SOURCE – LA TIMES