Adelaide Entertainment Centre Tuesday Oct 09 2018 It’s not often Adelaide has your 24 carat, bona-fide show biz legend come to town. Hollywood A-List movie stars and music legends are few and far between in Adelaide town. And tonight thousands flocked to see the living legend who is all of those things – Cher.
The place is chock-a-block full of little kids, old age pensioners (the cloak check was full of age walkers – seriously), pop fans and some astoundingly good drag Cher’s posing for photos and sashaying up the aisles to applause. Warming up the crowd tonight is Melbourne DJ Andrew McClelland (*full disclosure Andy is a dear friend, and my favourite DJ, so this will not be un-bias) and you could not ask for a better and more fun DJ to spin tunes at an event like this. A lot of DJ types will stand head down looking at their decks and twiddling knobs being too cool to dance or look like they are having any fun at all. McClelland on the other hand, dressed in a suit and tie, introduces himself and immediately starts dancing all over the stage. He prances, he jumps, he spins around, he smiles and prances some more. He is dropping nothing but pop gems from The Supremes to Amy Winehouse and he never stops dancing and waving and pointing and geeing up the crowd who roar with each new track. There are cameras round the stadium capturing people dancing away and projecting them on the big screens and each appearance prompts more cheering! His effervescent energy and clear love of a good pop tune wins him many new fans tonight and quite rightly so. Well done old chum.
After a brief break, the lights dim and a montage of Cher’s career highlights reminds us that we are in the presence of a performer with FIFTY YEARS of career to address tonight. There are clips from movies and the Sonny & Cher TV show, her solo musical career, magazine covers, record sleeves, to the sounds of Woman’s World from 2013’s Closer To The Truth album. As the screen headed up to the roof there she is, in a pod thing high above the stage ascending from the heavens. She looks amazing in a massive orange wig that you could see from Mars. As she gets to Earth, the stage is full of dancers dressed like Roman Centurions.
People go crazy as she starts Strong Enough from the 1998 career re-booter Believe album. She tells a long, rambling and funny story about being 40, that involves Nicholas Cage, Jack Nicholson, her best friend, and feeling ‘hot’ which ends with her saying ‘So, what’s your Grandmother doing tonight?’. I have seen some footage from other shows and it’s exactly the same delivery each night. Either way it runs a full ten minutes and probably gives her time to rest after the opening numbers. We see the first of many costume changes and props including a large mechanical elephant appear from which she emerges to sing Gayatri Mantra, The Gayatri Mantra is a Hindu mantra that has turned up in places as diverse as a Kate Bush album and the theme song from Battlestar Galactica. It morphs into All or Nothing also from the Believe album.
On the big screen there is a montage of clips from The Sonny & Cher Show, while the songs Little Man and All I Ever Need are played. The classic bass-line for the 1967 hit The Beat Goes On starts as dancers start appearing in super groovy costumes. The original backing for the single was from the incredible Wrecking Crew and the walking bassline provided by the brilliant Carol Kaye. It’s a song that is now fifty one years old and the reaction to those first few notes in visceral. Cher re-enters the stage is psychedelic pants and a long black wig and purple fur waistcoat. She sings it as a duet with Sonny on the video screens. It works really well and doubly so when they use the same method to perform their iconic theme I Got You Babe.
A set change to a circus carnival setting with dancers dressed as cat ladies, strong men, dancing horses and people dangling above the stage performing high wire acrobatics. Cue Cher’s latest costume change for Gypsy’s Tramps & Thieves from the 1971 album of the same name. Another extended dance break while the band vamps of an extended opening of Half Breed. It was a bit controversial when it came out in 1973 and today it could be considered exploitative. It is a story song though and people aren’t always claiming to be anything they are in a story. Her mother did claim to have Cherokee ancestry, but who is to say. It’s a rocking song though and brings back a lot of memories.
More clips from her various movies on the screens (while You Haven’t Seen the last of Me plays) before she appears to sing Welcome to Burlesque, from the movie Burlesque from 2010. Another screen interlude with Lie To Me from the Closer to The Truth CD (2013) plays. Somebody behind us said, ‘bloody hell she’s having a lot of breaks isn’t she?’. Need I remind you that Cher is currently 72 years old? A lot of 72 year old’s never even get out of the house, and here is this remarkable performer still getting out to our end of the world and putting on a full Vegas extravaganza. Yes she needs a breather between numbers and costume changes, nobody should begrudge her that. There is an elaborate two tiered stage with staircases on either side, but she doesn’t go anywhere near them, when she appears up top it’s via an elevated platform. So she doesn’t do that much actual dancing. There is a lot of walking around the stage while the dancers provide the smoke and mirrors and that creates the illusion she is doing more than she actually is. Likewise there is some assistance with the vocals at various parts of the show. But y’know what? It’s show biz baby, these things are to be expected in a Vegas style show with songs, dance routines and stories and costume changes and banter and all that stuff. Nobody notices or more importantly nobody cares. THEY ARE WATCHING FLIPPIN CHER!
There is a trio of ABBA songs fresh from Cher’s appearance in Mamma Mia 2 – Here We Go Again. I am never going to complain about hearing Waterloo, SOS or Fernando really loud with 10,000 people singing along. It was terrific. After All was originally a duet power ballad from 1989 with Cher joined by Peter Cetera from Chicago. After a great clip of her version of Presley‘s Heartbreak Hotel with ‘Cher-vis’ drag she returns for Marc Cohn‘s Walking In Memphis. Cohn’s version was a hit in 1991 and Cher covered it only four years later and very much made it her own. In some ways it is the song which is the most impactful tonight. There are no dancers. No tricky razzle dazzle. She is wearing a simple black jumpsuit and a blonde wig and it is just a fantastic singer, singing a fantastic song, fantastically well. Which is part of her talent that can be lost in the boom bang bang of a spectacular like this. You can get caught up in the history, the nostalgia, the lights, video projects, dancers and bombast and forget that this talented artist has an incredible voice and talent.
Straight into The Shoop Shoop Songs (It’s In His Kiss), which was a massive hit for her in 1990 from the soundtrack of her movie Mermaids and everybody is going crazy.
After a guitar solo from Joel Hoekstra (who has played in later line-ups of hair rockers Night Ranger and is in the current line up of Whitesnake) she re-appears in the classic ‘sparkling stocking suit’ outfit, with leather jacket and big black wig. She belts out I Found Some One and then an image of the guns of a battleship appear on the screen above her and everybody knows that she is going to Turn Back Time. Everybody is up on their feet, singing at top volume. She peels off the leather jacket, she struts round the stage and skips off into the wings.
There is an extended dance break with some dub-steppy breaks and hints of what’s next. What else could it be be the epic Believe. She is in costume number, I don’t know ten? Twelve? 200? Red wig, silver leotard with strings of dangling bling. All the dancers in white clothes and wigs, more arieal acrobatics and 10,000 people on their feet dancing. And the answer to this musical question is yes – we do Believe.
She Diva-ed our pants off.
Live Review by Ian Bell
All Or Nothing
Little Man(on the screens)
All I Ever Need (on the screens)
The Beat Goes On
I Got You Babe
Gypsy’s, Tramps & Thieves
You Haven’t Seen The Last Of Me (on the screens)
Welcome to Burlesque
Lie To Me (on the screens)
Heartbreak Hotel (on the screens)
Walking In Memphis
The Shoop Shoop Song
I Found Someone
If I Could Turn Back Time