Cher

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
February 13, 2000

It was Cirque du Cher Friday night at the Allstate Arena.

How else can you describe a concert that incorporated a theatrical stage setup with flying dancers and costumes worthy of “The Road Warrior” and “Les Miserables”?

This show was virtually the same as the one she performed five months ago at the Allstate Arena. But no matter. The 80-minute spectacle was delicious eye and ear candy, even for those of us going back for seconds.

Surveying her audience, which included a pair of grade school doppelgangers–complete with Cher-style wigs (actually Christmas garland) on their heads–she joked, “[I see the] same amount of tramps and thieves and gypsies this time. I just need to know who my audience is.”

Kicking her show off with U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” she exhibited little signs of strain from being on the road. Wearing what she called her “Darth Maul’s mother’s” outfit, she worked her flowing red wig as she sang in her familiar throaty/nasal voice.

Showmanship is a big part of her charm. Because let’s face it. There are better singers than Cher on the charts. But few can entertain as well as her.

Chatting up the audience with just the right amount of candor and rehearsed patter, Cher–at her best–has the ability to transcend even schlock such as “Walking in Memphis.”

And when she’s given a gem of a pop song like “Believe,” the 1999 hit that got her back on MTV and VH1, she takes the song to another level. She has guts, too, sharing the stage–so to speak–with a pair of showy aerialists who descended from the ceiling. Cher once attributed the success of the song to the “Cher-bot”–the studio manipulation of her voice that gives the chorus a techno, robotic vibe. That twist certainly didn’t hurt, but one suspects that she would’ve pulled something equally inventive from one of her many sleeves.

Her five-piece band, two backup singers and six dancers kept up with her, adding a Vegas-style feel to a medley of songs that included “Half Breed,” “The Way We Love” and “Gypies, Tramps and Thieves.”

And whenever the dancers would flip around on stage for more than a minute, the audience knew that La Cher was backstage changing into another fabulous costume.  (“I’m getting older and I’m dressing appropriately,” she cracked.)

There was the elegant white gown that proved to be see-through when the lights went up (come on, it’s Cher!),  the Napoleon meets the Pirates of Penzance ensemble and the catsuit that revealed a figure most  21-year-olds would covet.

Of course, Cher at 21 had an even more spectacular figure, which was apparent during a video montage of her fabulously thin, “Sonny & Cher” days when she fearlessly wore Bob Mackie’s barely-there creations. When she sang, “If I could turn back time/If I could find a way,” I wondered whether she thought the years had betrayed her.

She shouldn’t.

Dressed in crinkly black pants and a sparkly tank top, she looked ridiculously good and, more importantly, comfortable with who she has become.

*****


‘Cherest show of all’ is a sparkling triumph
By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
July 20, 2002

“If I’m gonna go around one more time, it better be good,” Cher said Thursday in the first of two consecutive nights at the United Center. “I have to raise the bar for a lot of these young girls coming up.”

Without missing a beat, Cher jokingly challenged, “All right, follow this, you bitches.”

If they only could. In terms of showmanship, endurance and sheer pluck, Britney and Christina have nothing on 56-year-old Cher. She’s the only female recording artist to score a Top 10 hit every decade since the ’60s. And unlike the multitasking singers who have failed at acting careers, Cher has won rave reviews for her work in theater, television and film. She has an Oscar for “Moonstruck” (1987) to prove it.

If anything, Cher’s biggest competition is herself. Her last tour married musical theater with graceful and daring Cirque du Soleil elements. At 95 minutes, this set is 15 minutes longer and retains many of the components that made that tour so fabulous–including the costume changes (I stopped counting after eight).

Do we really believe La Cher is going to retire from touring? No. But it may be a few years before we see her again. Which is a shame, because she wasn’t kidding when she said, “Ladies and gentlemen … and flamboyant gentlemen, welcome to the Cherest show of all!”

Resplendent in a floor-length, fur-trimmed cape, Cher made her entrance from a giant chandelier hanging from the sky, singing U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” (the same song that kicked off her tour two years ago).

By the end of the evening, she would have changed into a hipped-up sari, jeans and a peasant blouse, a Mad Max-inspired Native American outfit and a slightly more modest version of the peekaboo thong getup she wore in her “If I Could Turn Back Time” video.

But even at her most outrageous and revealing, there is an innocence to Cher that is lacking in today’s divas-in-training. Tweens can go to the mall and duplicate Brit-Brit’s outfits. Try copying one of Cher’s designer creations.

Backed by five musicians, two singers and eight dancers/aerialists, Cher wasn’t afraid to confront her past. Throughout the evening, there were videotaped interviews where she revealed there are no benefits to growing older. But one of the most poignant segments interspersed clips from the 1960s of Sonny and Cher singing “I Got You Babe” with their impromptu 1987 duet of that song on David Letterman’s show.

Changing into a fur vest, tight striped flared pants and a long, black wig that mirrored her hairstyle four decades ago, Cher sang a medley of “Half Breed,” “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” and “All I Really Want to Do.”

At times, technology failed her. A video glitch repeated some footage. But when Cher is changing from one outfit to another and aerialists are contorting their beautiful bodies, it’s easy to forgive.

Cyndi Lauper opened the concert with an hourlong set that showed off her distinctive vocals and sassy sense of humor. With her striped pants and jacket ensemble and shock of ice blond hair, Lauper looked like the adorable love child of Kelly Osbourne and Papa Smurf.

Her voice was another story. Strong and clear, it resonated with emotion for “True Colors” and later conveyed the timeless joy of girls just wanting to have fun.

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