The Queen Bee of American Pop makes Boston believe again
Cher lives in a time machine and there’s no pop singer alive who can turn back time like she can.
If you’re of a certain generation – and I am – Cher has been with you forever, for better or for worse. The incarnations range from the hippie hit-making duo with Sonny Bono to variety show host to award-winning actress to decades-spanning hit-maker to camp icon to, well, the world’s best-known ABBA cover artist.
Before the show at Boston’s TD Garden even started, Cher peaked out from the huge CHER curtain stage right, waved and danced, and then did same stage left. Then, she went backstage to position herself in that gilded gondola which, as the curtain dropped, would lower her from the top of the multi-tiered stage to the floor.
Cher, in all her resplendent multi-wigged and multi-costumed glory, was in Boston Dec. 8, yet another stop on the current farewell tour, and, yes, she joked about staging yet another farewell tour in later years. (This was her second such farewell stopover at the Garden in 2019.)
She turned 73 this year and said that pointedly, proudly, and with a certain cockiness. Before the age “reveal,” she noted that when she says that, crowds applaud wildly, but she wasn’t certain if it was “because I am still alive or because I can still get into my costumes.”
She’d taken the stage, lowered in that gondola, sporting an iridescent blue wig and surrounded by dancer-gladiators. (Blue-haired lady joke to come.) After two hyper-powered, female-empowerment disco-pop songs “Woman’s World” and “Strong Enough,” she stopped the show to say, “I’m going to tell you a fabulous story,” vowing that every bit of it was also true. And for the 12-plus minutes, she wove her way through looking sexy at 40, referencing her birthday party 33 years ago with her friend Polly and noting the comment that they both looked like hookers. Cher’s take: “She looked like a hooker; I looked like Cher.”
From there, she spent the night at the hotel of an un-named formerly imprisoned club maven (Studio 54’s Steve Rubell) – owing someone $28,000, not having $28,000 (yet), her infamous squabble/makeup with David Letterman, getting dissed by director George Miller, who didn’t initially want her for The Witches of Eastwick … and much, much more. She closed with a quip about old blue-haired ladies and asked, “What’s your grandma doing tonight?”
Then, Cher exited, the Indian sounds of “Gayatri Mantra” – about bringing light into the mind to dispel darkness (I had to look it up) – played over the sound system and the dancers cavorted.
Cher did a lot of walking on-and-off throughout the 90-minute show. There were numerous between-song video/movie montages and pre-recorded Cher vocals. New costumes and new wigs for her, but never a dull moment for us as Cher-centered video was on the huge backing screen, reminding us of her various epochs, reminding us, you know, like I said: Cher has been with us always.
Sonny, of course, made an appearance – well, not in the flesh being dead and all, but on video for “The Beat Goes On” and “I Got You Babe,” which she sang with Sonny’s black-and-white image on the video screen. Cher said she wasn’t sure she should do that live/video duet – positing she could have saved it for her next farewell tour – but decided to do it. What the hell. Amusing note: This is almost exactly what she said when she did her 2014 farewell tour. Either Cher figures no one in attendance has ever seen previous shows or that they’ve seen her every time out and they don’t give a rat’s ass about hearing the same bit, shtick and songs. I’d put money on the latter.
But there were changes from 2014, though. The major omissions were the campy – but quite possibly politically incorrect in this era – ‘70s hits, “Half-Breed” and “Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves.” Also: No Cher-in-a-gondola gliding over the crowd.
However, there was ABBA. Cher’s latest album is an ABBA covers album and she was a late entry star in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, so, there were three consecutive ABBA hits, “Waterloo,” “SOS” and “Fernando.” Those ABBA songs were pure delights and Cher embodies the spirit of those songs as well as anyone, though I have yet to see the ABBA holograms – the ABBATARs which was supposed to tour next year. And both ABBA and Cher share a delight in cheesy pop. Call it kitsch or call it pure pop for older people. Whatever, she enjoyed the heck out of singing them and I hearing them. During “Fernando,” the scrim behind her lit up with fireworks, a la the movie.
Every song was a set piece, most high on the razzle-dazzle. For “All or Nothing,” Cher rode atop an animatronic elephant with glowing eyes and tusks. At other points, there were two aerialists doing sporadic Cirque du Soleil-esque turns above the stage. A video of Cher singing and talking about Elvis’s “Heartbreak Hotel” morphed into her live, singing, “Walking in Memphis,” Marc Cohn’s song about spending time with Elvis’s ghost. Behind her, we saw a marquee for CHELVIS. That led into “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss),” her nostalgic remake of the 1964 hit from 1990’s “Mermaids” and a backdrop that included Cher’s Drive-In.
Of course, Cher couldn’t leave the building without “If I Could Turn Back Time.” She pranced about the stage, performing that peppy, bombastic number in a skimpy, sexy black outfit, pretty much the same as what she wore in the classic cannon-straddling, sailor strewn video. (The image of a Navy ship and the cannons loomed behind her and the band.)
The night closed with “Believe” – that hook-packed “love after love” romp – and I can’t think many left the room without a big smile and that hook in their head. Another fun night in the Cher funhouse.
VIDEO: Cher performs “Believe” at the TD Garden in Boston, MA 12/8/19