Cher - Barclays Center - 5/9/14
Cher has an EGO. One Tony Award away from getting that 'T' at the end of EGOT, she embraces every double-meaning of the word in a way that is engaging, self-deprecating and very Cher. After decades in the biz, a Vegas residency, numerous awards, and countless farewell tours, she has retained her ability to simultaneously be the centerpiece showgirl as well as the ringleader of her own circus. On her latest tour--her "farewell farewell farewell tour" as she cheekily calls it--the Cher of 2014 is not only a culmination of every prior phase in her life but maybe the best version of all.
Prior to the main event, Cyndi Lauper opened the show. Of course this isn't Lauper's first time at the Cher rodeo, having opened for her in the early millennium. Her thrift shop brand of neon messiness is the polar opposite of Cher's pristine sets, choreography and costuming, but it's a rabble-rousing opening fairly perfect for getting the crowd amped for what's next. It took a few songs and some jumping off the stage and on amps on Lauper's part to get this particular crowd jumping, but by the time she brought two very famous members of the audience, Rosie O'Donnell and Liza Minnelli, on-stage to sing back-up on "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," they were finally ready to start the night.
A Cher show has some elements of being a History Channel special except more fabulous. After the stadium lights dimmed, a montage played on the curtains still hiding the set. It was nostalgic, emotional and quite empowering to see the many phases of the legend displayed like cards fanned out on a table. She visually embodied every decade she's mastered, from the '60s on, living out every shift in culture and style and movement. As the curtain dropped, it revealed a shockingly magnificent and gorgeous layout. In an ornate and colorful headpiece matching the strategically placed beads and patterns atop her sparkly nude bodysuit, Cher stood atop a 20-foot pole like a queen overseeing her kingdom. It was the first of many enchanting vignettes she'd offer throughout the show. "Woman's World," the feminist dance anthem and lead single from her most recent album Closer to the Truth, opened the set and introduced us to the fantastic crew of dancers that would guide us and host the Cirque Du Soleil type transitions between songs and sets. Her voice sounded spectacular as she shifted from the new to the old(er) with "Strong Enough" from her Believe album.
Then began the banter. It's her Vegas, her actress, and her variety show pasts that help her excel at this well beyond many. Cher is not about the sob story or the re-telling of a rags-to-riches tale. She won't stand up there and tell the world everything she's been through. Instead, she arrives and assumes you know the gist and goes straight to the riches. She basks in her own glory and her own celebrity and wants you to eat it up right along with her. As she says, she "majored in diva" at the top of her class. Somehow, it's more inspirational than the dichotomy of a pop star being a pop star while also aligning with the fans. She knows her place and we know how she got there, and Cher is not afraid to remind us exactly how far she's come by showing rather than telling. Her stories, like the one about Dr. Pepper's gift to her ("a sad-ass cooler") after a show, feel as unfiltered as her tweets, but as polished as one of her excellent film performances.
Scenes continued to change from a vampire fantasy for "Dressed to Kill" to an old school circus freak show for "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves" and "Dark Lady." Between those was a touching tribute to her late ex-husband Sonny Bono and the era that introduced us to Cher. A montage played before mod dancers came out during "The Beat Goes On" as she sang with a video of a very, very young Cher and Sonny also singing the duet in the background. Then she did what she had deemed the unthinkable, something she never planned to do, a duet with a virtual Sonny on a large video screen to "I Got You Babe." It was cheesy but emotional to watch her lovingly look at the vintage clip of Sonny singing directly to the camera then at her while performing the duet.