BootLeg Betty

KMB Tour Review: Sun-Times

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Chicago Sun Times
December 12, 2003
BY MISHA DAVENPORT Staff Reporter

It probably wasn’t the best way to begin the first concert on a new tour — the first in four years — but midway through the title song of her “Kiss My Brass” concert at the United Center Wednesday night, Bette Midler ran out of gas and paused between singing and banter for a moment to catch her breath.

Think the comedian/sing-er/actress who recently celebrated her 58th birthday is getting too old for the concert circuit? Don’t Bette on it.

“Let me say officially I’m not retiring and you can’t make me,” she told the applauding crowd.

Whatever wind was missing from beneath her wings was soon back in full gale force, and by the end of the three-hour spectacle, it was the audience — not Midler — that was rendered breathless.

Anyone who has seen the singer perform knows to expect a few things: Midler will make a grand entrance, intersperse moments of schtick in between singing, perform fan favorites such as “Friends” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and close the show with an encore of two of her most recognized songs, Amanda McBroom’s “The Rose” and Larry Henley and Jeff Silbar’s “Wind Beneath My Wings.”

Here Midler didn’t disappoint, meeting and exceeding all those expectations, beginning with her entrance, which had her flying in from the wings riding a carousel horse.

Her humor was in fine form. The ’60s hit “Chapel of Love” was performed as video images of defunct couples paraded across the screen. Included in her hit list were Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton (“I remember a time when exchanging vials of blood used to mean something!”), Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee (“They looked so happy in their video.”) and Liza Minnelli and David Gest (“Liza with an ex.”).

She also saw fit to sprinkle her performance with local jokes, taking time out to recognize “my own little Gold Coast in the front row who lied, cheated or slept with people they didn’t even like for these seats.”

“And my poor Cubbies,” she pined, “screwed in public more than Paris Hilton.”

It wasn’t all laughs, though. The tour is in support of Midler’s latest release, a tribute to the late singer Rosemary Clooney, who died from lung cancer last year at the age of 74. Clooney was one of the top-selling female singers of the 1950s, and Midler counts herself as a fan.

“I’m only too happy to refresh your memory of who she was and what her music was about,” she told the audience before launching into her take on one of Clooney’s hits, “Come On-A My House.”

Midler’s own brashness had the potential to steamroll over Clooney’s gentler legacy and she seemed to recognize this by putting her own over-the-top persona on hold, giving a straightforward rendition of the song.

Even a diva like Midler will occasionally share the stage. Video displays above her projected images of the late singer while Midler gave a touching performance of another Clooney hit, the Jack Lawrence and Walter Gross gem “Tenderly.”

It’s ironic that Midler’s record is actually in competition with the late singer’s last recording for a best traditional pop vocal Grammy. The Divine Miss M just might need a little divine intervention — lest she eclipse her idol when the awards are handed out.

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