By BRIAN WALMER
Special to the Blade
Friday night gay and pop culture icon Cher brought her current “Dressed to Kill Tour” to the Verizon Center for an evening filled with hits, new songs and lots of glam.
The tour was announced shortly after the release of her first album in 10 years, “Closer to the Truth,” and fans were beyond thrilled. In 2005, Cher ended her nearly three-year “Farewell Tour” at the Hollywood Bowl and said that was it as far as touring was concerned.
In 2008, the diva did an elaborate three-year run at the Coliseum in Vegas and while she loved the show, she had said in a few interviews she wasn’t crazy over the crowds and missed going out playing for her fans.
Nearly three years later here we are and Cher is out on the road again gaining rave reviews since the start of the tour in Phoenix two weeks ago. After some opening night mishaps (ill-fitting costumes, flubbed lyrics and missed cues) it seems the tour is now off and running like a well-oiled machine.
“I’m on my way out there. You better be good too or as my mother would say, ‘Cher don’t make me get off this couch,’ ” came Cher’s voice unexpectedly before the start of the show turning the packed arena into a frenzy. Young, old, gay, straight, black, white, everyone turned out for Cher’s (this time she supposedly means it) final tour. Fans dressed in tour shirts sporting the legend’s face, others opted for home-made shirts that showcased song titles and the tour logo. Surprisingly, I didn’t see one Cher look a-like roaming the arena.
Starting the show with a montage of clips, the white curtain dropped and there she stood atop a giant pedestal dressed in a massive feather headpiece and looking every bit like an Egyptian goddess belting out “Woman’s World.” Disappearing briefly, she remerged (sans headpiece) performing “Strong Enough” from 1998’s “Believe” before chatting with the crowd.
“My life’s goal is to make you happy,” she said. “Who cares if I stand on top of a 20-foot high pillar, standing on a space the size of a desert spoon singing out my lungs before plunging into the ground; these are my thoughts,” she told the audience before sipping Dr. Pepper and going on a rant about her love of Dr. Pepper and how the only thing they’ve given her is a cooler and a six-pack.
During her opening monologue which she said wasn’t as scripted as her previous tours, she went off on a variety of topics. “Gaga doesn’t do that,” she said. “I’d rather stand and talk than have some chick vomit on me. Call me old fashioned. I’m just that funny kind of gal.”
Story topics ranged from her aunt who was the first woman in Little Rock to have shock treatment, her near arrest in Nashville and when she got toilet paper stuck to her fingernail on the opening night of the tour. Despite all the talking and fun you could tell she was having with the audience, she closed her monologue with the news that this is her “Farewell Farewell Tour” — but not without giving a few winks.
After a brief video interlude that turned the Verizon Center into a stormy red inferno Cher emerged from the floor of the stage riding a chandelier belting out “Dressed To Kill” in a sheer body suit with a flowing black train.
Next up was Cher from the Sonny & Cher days. After a video montage played clips of the famous couple to the tunes of “Little Man” and “All I Ever Need Is You,” the set turned to black and white and dancers emerged to the opening of the “The Beat Goes On” before being joined onstage by Cher dressed in a sparkly red mini skirt and black-and-white feather boa. After finishing the tune, the icon that’s been a staple of pop culture since the ’60s told the crowd since this is her last time out, she was going to do something she never thought she’d be able to do.
“It took me forever to be able do this and frankly I didn’t think I would be able to do this” she told the crowd before doing a video duet of “I Got You Babe” with her late partner and husband. Despite lots of ups and downs in their relationship, they were arguably America’s favorite entertaining duo and seeing her perform again with him was touching.
Next up was a group of circus-attired dancers and a gypsy garbed-Cher to sing a medley of ’70s hits like “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” “Dark Lady” and “Half-Breed,” which she sang while wearing an elaborate feathered headdress.
After a montage of acting clips, she came back out to sing “Welcome to Burlesque” as Tess, her character from “Burlesque,” the 2010 bomb she made with Christina Aguilera. She said “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me,” which she sang next, was one of the hardest she ever tackled.
“We call this song ‘the beast’ because sometimes I made it through and sometimes I don’t … and I’m very brave. The few times I made it through, it was quite wonderful” It was probably just suspense-building banter as she sang it powerfully and near flawlessly.
Two male dancers performed acrobatic stunts before Cher entered the stage in a giant Trojan horse dressed in gold armor belting out fan favorite “Take It Like a Man” from her new album.
Steering the show in a stripped-down direction, Cher entered the stage in simple black slacks and an off-the-shoulder black top performing “Walking In Memphis” after a video played showing her love of Elvis and seeing him with her mom as a kid. In between sips of Dr. Pepper she told the crowd she had foot surgery and called herself a “crazy bitch” at the thought of launching a tour.
Since this is the “Farewell Farewell Tour,” she did “Just Like Jesse James,” a song she has admitted she doesn’t like and reiterated that sentiment again before performing it for the D.C. crowd. Moving onto a song she does like, she performed her favorite, “Heart of Stone.”
Long time background vocalist for Cher, Stacy Campbell, performed “Bang Bang” with new Cher recruit, Nikki Tillman against a video backdrop of past performances of the song.
To the opening of the ’80s hit “I Found Someone,” Cher entered center stage looking just as she did then — big hair, leather jacket, knee high boots and sheer peek-a-boo body suit. Removing the jacket, Cher belted out one of her signature hits, “If I Could Turn Back Time” prancing across the stage bringing the crowd to its feet.
“Believe” was presented as a crowd singalong. She sang the monster hit while wearing a revealing glittery outfit with a red heart on the chest.
“I Hope You Find It” was the encore, sung with Cher standing on a small platform that flew above the crowd letting fans everywhere get an up close view of the icon before she landed back onstage and called it a night nearly two hours after the show started.
Throughout the show, Cher’s voice was top notch and you could tell 99.9 percent of it was live. It seemed she enjoyed shaking up her set list a bit and added some songs that were a bit more challenging than before. Though its early in the tour, not once did she seem like she was going through the motions. Instead of just talking during the opening monologue and the sit down portion of her show like previous tours, she chatted and joked with the crowd between numbers and made the arena tour feel a bit more intimate and less staged.
The interludes between numbers worked well to blend the songs and visuals so you felt like you weren’t waiting long between costume changes. Speaking of costume changes, while Bob Mackie opted out of doing the new tour, some of his outfits were there, rehashed from previous tours along with new outfits from Hugh Durant. You really couldn’t tell whose outfits were whose and Cher did a great job blending all the elements together so everything ran like a big Broadway show.
If this is truly Cher’s last tour, it’s one hell of a last hurrah. It’s obvious this was a labor of love and I don’t think I ever saw Cher have this much fun on stage. A lot of time was spent making this production one that would be entertaining and also one that pushed Cher to the limits.
Pat Benatar opened with her husband, Neil Giraldo (the Blade interviewed him here). They’re celebrating their 35th anniversary together.
Cher apparently is a fan of Benatar’s and performed the rocker’s “Love Is a Battlefield” during her 1992 “Love Hurts Tour” and the first leg of her 2008 Vegas show. For Benatar/Giraldo’s hour-long set, they focused solely on hits and turned the Verizon Center into one big karaoke parlor. Pat’s voice is still as strong today as it was then and that sexy, husky growl is still there as she belted out hits such as “Love is a Battlefield,” “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and “Heartbreaker.” I’ve seen Pat three times before this show and while I loved each time, I really enjoyed the extra production that went into opening for Cher. The band sounded fuller, backing vocals were added and Pat’s voice was front and center instead of blending into the mix. If you’re reading this Pat, a new album would be fantastic! The musical duo performs with Cher until April 14. Cyndi Lauper takes over thereafter.
Shadows of the Night
All Fired Up
We Live For Love
Promises In The Dark
Hit Me With Your Best Shot
Love Is a Battlefield
Let’s Stay Together
Heartbreaker/Ring of Fire
Dressed to Kill
The Beat Goes On
I Got You Babe
Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves
Welcome to Burlesque
You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me
Take It Like a Man
Walking in Memphis
Just Like Jesse James
Heart of Stone
Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) (performed by background vocalists)
I Found Someone
If I Could Turn Back Time
I Hope You Find It