There's Always Time For Cher
Photo and video credit: Yvette Clavell
Set List on Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Video Montage: I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For / Woman’s World INTRO
Monologue: David Letterman
All Or Nothing
Video Montage: Little Man / All I Ever Need Is You
The Beat Goes On
I Got You Babe
70’s Medley: Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves / Dark Lady
Welcome To Burlesque
Take Me Home
Film Career Montage
After All (Love Theme from “Chances Are”)
Walking In Memphis
The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss)
Flying Rope Sequence: Lie To Me
Musical Interlude: Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)
I Found Someone
If I Could Turn Back Time
The Park Theater at Monte Carlo
Las Vegas, Nevada
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
After witnessing every solo concert tour that singer Cher has ever done in her nearly 60-year career (Gasp! Who else has that?), it was quite a task for the Oscar, Grammy, Emmy and Golden Globe winner to pull together just the right material for Classic Cher, her current concert incarnation at the Monte Carlo’s Park Theater in Las Vegas. The challenge here was to hit all the right notes for the widest possible audience while keeping herself fresh and relevant - while at the same time keeping her most loyal fans happy. I believe in this show, she does accomplish that.
So I’ll begin this review by pointing out that what I’m writing here is more for the Cher superfan than for the casual Cher listener. I’ve seen the televised concerts of Cher’s 1979 Take Me Home Tour and her follow-up show at Caesar’s Palace in 1981 which aired on Showtime in 1983. She then took a break from singing to focus on an acting career - first on Broadway in “Come Back To The Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean”, which I saw on Broadway six times and in theaters when the film version was released. When she returned to the concert stage, it was in 1989 for the Heart Of Stone Tour, after winning the Academy Award for Best Actress in the movie “Moonstruck”. I caught that show in an early performance in Atlantic City at the Sands. Then I saw her Tour 90, on the night of the surprise performance by Richie Sambora, and her Love Hurts Tour in 1992 in Madison Square Garden’s Forum. Then I witnessed her triumphant return with her Believe Tour in 1999 twice (in New York’s Madison Square Garden and in Boston at the Nokia Theater). I caught her record-breaking Living Proof: The Farewell Tour on July 6, 2002 in Atlantic City while hobbling with a sprained ankle, but missed Cher at The Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas in 2008. I managed to catch an amazing and impressive show during her Dress To Kill Tour in 2013 upon the release of her first album in over a decade, this show being at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. So I would say that I have plenty of references to go on to review her current show in Vegas.
I’ve also met the lady three times and will tell you there is no one quite like her. No one.
Does Classic Cher deliver? Well, if she set out to give you an overview of her music career, I’d say yes, she did that. I’ll tell you right off the bat, Cher always delivers. In person or onscreen. This is her life, this is what she does. She has always taken great pride in being the best she can be.
I would have loved to have seen Cher at The Colosseum, as I heard and read there was new technology, with a hologram of her character Laverne from CBS's The Sonny And Cher Comedy Hour in the 1970's, and a beautiful moving canoe floating across waters as she sang her Billboard #6 pop hit “After All (Theme From Chances Are)”.
Luckily for me, Classic Cher recaptures the greatest moments from her concert career, so on this night I finally got to see that number. It’s like a “Greatest Hits” of concert performances of the past. In this way, the show succeeds magnificently. Here, Cher gets to bring back classic Bob Mackie creations in her 11 plus costume changes; she also gets to bring back the best elements from each tour.
It’s an interesting way to create a new show without a new album to support it. It’s like the great cabaret performers of our time, Sinatra, Garland and Minnelli. They can put on a great show no matter what.
The one advantage of her new concert at the Park Theater over The Colosseum where Celine Dion has her residency is that The Colosseum is clearly a theatre to see a sit-down show, and security frowned upon standing and dancing when I saw Celine Dion. At the Park Theater, it's a mini arena. It's much more a concert venue where people get up and dance. It lends itself to a Cher concert, which is why the newly rebuilt venue is also now home to Bruno Mars and Ricky Martin.
For the opening montage, it’s slicker and faster than before. In “Woman’s World”, her opener, Egypt meets gladiator style backup dancers, and so some of the fabulousness from “Take It Like A Man” from her previous tour is there. Her huge afro wig is also dynamite and with the choreography all the elements come together in a song that embraces her feminist stance as she sings, “All the women of the world, stand up, come together now…This is a Woman’s World!” It’s fun. In this venue's more intimate setting, I was able to take in the performance more than before.
In “Strong Enough”, the same vibe came through. In her monologue, she has a moment to chat with her audience in her inimitable style. Cher has this uncanny ability to make you feel like you’re friends. We’ve known her for a while - but get this - she knows you too. I told my friend Lindsay’s husband Art, who was sitting in the audience: “Believe me, Cher knows that husbands are being dragged to her concerts, and she absolutely makes sure that she has something there for you, too.” She chatted about how she came to meet David Letterman, and how she’s been with him over the years. Funny stuff. Just down to earth. She also spoke about her allergies, and a reaction of red spots that are on “parts of my body that you don’t see.” Then, pointing out that she is still on stage, she asked, "What's your granny doing tonight?"
During “Gayatri Mantra”, it’s a slightly truncated version than the one we saw in her Living Proof Tour. The sequence was a bit shorter, or the staging was a bit pared down, as it is a smaller stage than the huge arena tours she’s done. It wasn’t as grand as the arena tours, but the magic and sparkle was somehow more present. This was followed by “All Or Nothing” from the “Believe” album. In her previous Heart Of Stone Tour, this spot was occupied by “We All Sleep Alone,” which carried a similar tone. In this case “All Or Nothing” captured the best of both of those numbers.
The video montage with the 1960’s Sonny & Cher hit “Little Man” was on screen before Cher took the stage again with “The Beat Goes On”, with Sonny on a giant screen. This, and their signature hit, “I Got You Babe”, was first presented at her recent Dressed To Kill Tour, which was cut short on its second leg due to illness. This time around, Cher seemed more comfortable. She sounded glorious, and this section of the show was poignant. In the past tours, she stated she wanted to preserve the legacy of those songs with late husband Sonny Bono, and they were often presented in the video montages. It's great she decided it was time to sing them live again. More specifically, I was happy because both songs were the full versions of the songs; they were not cut. A song that was cut from when Classic Cher began earlier this year was “All I Really Want To Do”. Perhaps that’s why “The Beat Goes On” and “I Got You Babe” had more focus. It worked very well.
While “All I Really Want To Do” was cut, there’s word on Cher’s Twitter feed that “I Hope You Find It,” from Cher’s last album, Closer To The Truth (and her last top 20 hit), will be added to the setlist very soon, as she is currently working to reprise her flight into the audience, as she did on the Dressed To Kill Tour. Although the crew rehearsed the number, they were not quite technically ready, but we anticipate they will be soon, probably for her return to the Park Theater in November.
The 70’s medley of Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves and Dark Lady were a necessary component for this Greatest Hits concert, and the standalone “Half-Breed” was phenomenal. Cher, a woman of 71 years, bewitched audiences with her feather headress and little else. I believe she had everyone here.
“Welcome To Burlesque” from Burlesque (Cher’s last film with Christina Aguilera) was a welcome transition as it was in her last tour. The audience was up on their feet during “Take Me Home”, Cher’s classic Disco hit, before bringing them to their feet once again during “After All.”
What I appreciate from her is when she gets to do a lesser known hit song that she has passion for. Such is the case with “Walking In Memphis,” the Marc Cohn cover. I’ll throw in my own plug here: I’ve covered this in concert years ago - and Cher’s version has her own spice.
Of course, one of my all-time favorites is “I Found Someone”, the song that brought her back to modern radio, and the one-two punch of that and “If I Could Turn Back Time” feels like the most Cher of Cher songs. “Believe” might be her biggest career hit, but Turn Back Time is a signature as any other. You can’t hear the song and not think of Cher.
A word on choreography and direction. Her live shows began with Joe Layton and Kenny Ortega. Ortega went on to choreograph and direct her tours throughout into the late 80's with the Heart Of Stone Tour before assistant choreographer Doriana Sanchez took the reigns, first as choreographer and later as co-director with Cher in the early 90's. For this show, Cher is credited as director with Sanchez as consultant.
There’s something quite inspiring about this lady. She’s in fine voice. If you’ve never seen her in concert, you’ll be surprised that you’ll witness something special that you don’t quite hear on record. Some performers sound better on recordings, and are a let down when heard live. With Cher, it’s the opposite. I love the records, but the live experience is special, and that makes for a not only a great singer, but a concert legend.