BootLeg Betty

Kiss My Brass Tour Review: Chicago

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Mister D: Until I get a review page ready, this will have to do. Thanks for sending this Richard…saved me time:-) The Tribine review of Bette:

It’s camp, it’s all Bette Midler
By Dan Kening
Chicago Tribune
December 11 2003

Bette Midler, camp is thy middle name.

At her United Center show Wednesday—the first stop on her 40-city “Kiss My Brass” tour—Midler provided more campy moments than a visit to the Liberace museum in Las Vegas.

Take her grand entrance, descending from above while riding a white carousel horse.

Or her exit from a carnival “tunnel of love” in a sleigh the shape of a pair of swans.

And then there were the trademark mermaid fins (more about that later).

Even the set, a glittering, Arabian Nights-themed amusement park that Midler referred to (with a nod to beat generation writer Lawrence Ferlinghetti) as a “Coney Island of the Mind,” was characteristically over the top.

But despite the outsized, impersonal setting of the United Center (“I’m so glad to be in the arena where the Bulls lose,” Midler quipped.), Midler was somehow able to transform the huge venue into an intimate room.

Even those who aren’t Midler fans had to be impressed by her versatility, whether getting in hilariously catty barbs at other celebrities (you know who you are, Cher, Liza, Paris), hoofing it with her trio of singer-dancers and, not incidentally, displaying her versatility as a singer.

As far as jokes, the audience favorite was Midler’s comment on the trend she started years ago for wearing trashy outfits onstage, which is currently being brought to its illogical conclusion by younger performers like Britney Spears. “You have to be very careful what you wear on stage these days,” she said. “You can’t be a professional entertainer unless you’re dressed like a ‘ho.'”

It’s not for nothing that Midler is a multiple Grammy winner, and she alternately belted out the classic R&B song “When a Man Loves a Woman,” cooed a sexy version of “Do You Wanna Dance” and was positively winsome on the venerable chestnut “Skylark.”

Some of the evening’s most enjoyable tunes were culled from her new album, “Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook,” which was conceived, co-produced and arranged by Midler’s one-time accompanist, Barry Manilow.

Midler showed her respect for Clooney, the classy crooner who dominated the airwaves in the ’50s, with a hushed rendering of “Tenderly,” while adding the requisite sauciness to “Come On-A My House.”

At times, though, the shtick got in the way of the music. A segment featuring her as the singing mermaid, Delores de Lago, went on far too long, even though some of the sight gags were memorable (How about four mermaids flopping around as they send up “All That Jazz” from “Chicago?”).

But she can be forgiven. After all, you can’t help but love someone who makes fun of herself via taped spoof of “Judge Judy” that finds the trademark CBS-TV eyeball taking Midler to court to pay for the failure of her short-lived TV series, “Bette.”

Ultimately, the “Kiss My Brass” show is all about good old-fashioned, leave-your-troubles-at-the-door entertainment. And that’s something we can all use a little of these days.

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