SLICING AND DICING: CHER AS VELVEETA

My friend Robert and I went last night to see Cher’s “first farewell tour” Living Proof at Gund Arena in downtown Cleveland. There was the expected large assortment of gay men, and (as Robert described it) “most of the trailor parks in the area were emptied” for the evening. There was a little of everything.

Her performance in Detroit last Saturday night (June 15) was reviewed on MTV’s site. It is a pretty accurate description of what went on, with one important exception: at the beginning of the show, after the big video and audio build-up, but curtains parted and the chandelier–obviously bearing Cher–started to descend from the flies. Then everything stopped–music, lights, everything. The stage hands came out on stage and manually pulled the curtains closed, and we were left sitting in the dark for several minutes. Finally, one of the hands, dressed in black, came out and announed that they were having “technical difficulties” that would be resolved in a few minutes. After about five minutes, the lights came back on, and Cher stepped out from behind the curtain. According to her description, the chandelier started to descend, but the safety harness she was wearing started to ascend. She said, “I felt like I was on the rack and would have told all of my secrets. I’m happy to be here this evening–but then, I’m happy to be anywhere this evening.”

She then proceeded with the rest of the show, which managed to steal some of Cirque du Soleil’s best bits. (The part where the acrobats fly on red curtains is straight out of “O”, the Cirque du Soleil show at Bellaggio in Las Vegas. This show has a high cheese content.

It was a paean to her career, and I was again reminded how one can have a huge career based on relatively modest resources. Stop and think about it: her voice is (charitably put) an acquired taste, she doesn’t dance, she doesn’t do a lot of “antics” on stage. But she has a winning and self-deprecating persona that audiences love, and she has had considerable success, including an Academy Award, as an actress. She is a living icon, every gay man’s best friends. And those costumes (of which there must have been at least fifteen in this show) have made Bob Mackie’s career. All the costume changes slowed down the pace of the show; there were many parts that could be tightened up. I was beginning to think that there was more video than live action. But Cher’s fans seemed thrilled, and it was entertaining–for sure better than sitting at home having a good cry.

The real highlight of the evening was Cyndi Lauper’s hour-long opening set. She is a much more vivid concert stage personality than Cher (although even she was swamped by the huge venue–I’d love to see her in a smaller place someday). She sang new material as well as her old hits. She made her way out into the audience to dance with and greet them. She repeatedly mentioned her gay fans. In the most touching moment of the evening, she told a story about being given a rainbow flag and having a gay fan tell her that her song “True Colors” had made a difference in his life. She then sang the song simply, draped in a huge rainbow flag, with acoustic guitar and violin accompaniment. She sang “Time After Time” accompanied by herself on dulcimer, again with acoustic guitar and violin. Her encore was, as one might expect, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” (How many zillion times must she have sung this song?) This is an imaginative artist. She was worth the price of admission. Unfortunately, from where we were sitting (quite far away), the sound mix at the beginning of the set favored drums and guitars, not the vocals, so we hard trouble hearing her. It improved through the set. Others reported that the sound was fine where they were. I’m glad I have finally heard Cyndi live.

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