Cher arrived on a floating platform, dressed as a Viking in a neon wig as part of her Here We Go Again tour, which visited Glendale last night. She did this because she can, and presumably because she wanted to, but also because she must.
She is Cher, and people who’ve paid to see her expect a grand entrance, a giant set, an evening’s spectacular. The last time Cher merely walked onto a stage to perform, she had a different nose, different teeth, and a man she said was her husband by her side.
He, the late Sonny Bono, also appeared last night, to sing a posthumous duet with his ex-wife via a video screen and some smart editing. There was also an animatronic elephant, a clutch of synchronized dancers, and rather a lot of wigs during what Cher told the audience in a “no-this-time-I-really-mean-it” voice was her final tour.
If the rainbow bouffants, the costumes, and the pachyderm were meant to eclipse the vocal talent of the world’s oldest girl, they failed. It was Cher’s voice I drove to Glendale to hear. Her voice is still so strong, I might just as well have stayed home, 20 miles away, and opened a window.
And if I wasn’t distracted by the pyrotechnics and the aerial dancers — the costumes, hairdos, and video montages that wanted to pull me away from that unmistakable contralto — it may be because nothing, not even a show that sometimes looks as if it were designed to divert us from the main attraction, can do so when that attraction is the unmistakable sound of Cher’s voice.
And also because I occasionally closed my eyes and listened to her sing.
Was she augmented, Auto-Tuned, amplified? Maybe. But she was also a 73-year-old belting rock and disco numbers in a voice that is, if nothing else, still distinctive and strong. Cher’s deep, low register and signature vibrato are still there. As she ages, her ability to sustain and hold big notes appears to have improved.
Yet at this point in her career, a Cher concert is less about how or whether she can sing, and more about admiring her longevity while she changes her clothes. But if iconic costumes and video tributes to her TV and film careers may be front and center, it’s still true that Cher, well into her dotage, can fill a two-hour show with something other than past achievements.
Rather than an evening of oldies, Cher performed million-selling hits she’s recorded in very recent years, including a trio of ABBA covers from an album that debuted last year at number three on Billboard’s LP chart. In fact, she left out a half-dozen chart-toppers — there’s nothing here from her ‘60s solo career, unless you count a superb instrumental of the ‘80s version of “Bang Bang” by her tight six-piece band. Nor any of her Kapp Records-era ‘70s hits. When you are Cher, there simply isn’t room in a two-hour show for every hit song.
Alongside the hits, Cher’s new tour offers some pleasant surprises. The longish Sonny and Cher video tribute includes “Little Man,” perhaps because that song, a soft hit here, went to number one in the U.K., where this Cher show recently made several stops. And the Cirque du Soleil-inspired aerial dance routine in the middle of the concert is performed to a family-friendly version of “Lie to Me,” a ballad from Cher’s 2013 album Closer to the Truth. (The original version commences with the lyric, “Oh, fuck, just lie to me.”)
Mostly, though, there are hit records, songs that scored eras of our own lives, whether we are 18 or 80 — all of them sold in a still-superb voice by a woman who, from the moment she stuck her head through the preshow curtain to wave to the audience, never sat still.
To quote Cher from her first-act monologue, “What’s your granny doing tonight?”
“All or Nothing”
Video: “Little Man”/“All I Ever Need Is You”/“The Beat Goes On”/“I Got You Babe”
Video: “You Haven't Seen the Last of Me”
“Welcome to Burlesque”
Recording: “Lie to Me” (aerial dance routine)
Video: Movie clips
Video: Cher talks about Elvis
“Walking in Memphis”
“The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)”
“Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” (instrumental)
“I Found Someone”
“Turn Back Time”
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Last Night: Cher’s Here We Go Again tour at Gila River Arena in Glendale
The Crowd: Everyone from grey-haired grandmas to tweens in “Got Cher?” T-shirts.
Overheard: “Do you like my blue hair? It’s natural. Must be something I ate.” — Cher, patting her giant first-act wig
Random Notebook Dump: Inebriated audience member to stranger on her left: “Do you really like Cher? I don’t get it.”