Midler and Band Wow the Wachovia

Posted on Sun, Dec. 28, 2003

WILKES-BARRE TWP. – “I’m not retiring and you can’t make me!” shouted an energetic Bette Midler as she strutted across the stage during the opening number of her show Saturday at Wachovia Arena.

Midler, perhaps taking a lighthearted jab at the abundance of “farewell tours” always on the concert trail, made it clear she isn’t going anywhere and, considering the excellent and highly entertaining show she delivered, there’s no reason she should.

Midler, 58, is still sexy, still a fine singer, and when she descended to the stage riding a white wood carnival horse while flashing her trademark big smile, she immediately proved she’s still a great showman. Throughout her performance, she seamlessly combined music with theater and, equally important, engaging wit. Her humor, which was sometimes political, sometimes social, sometimes self-deprecating and sometimes crass, was one of the highlights of the evening, as were fun musical numbers such as “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and soulful songs like “When a Man Loves a Woman.”

Midler’s lighting was glitzy yet tasteful, and her powerful band, which featured a booming brass section, was excellent. The staging, which carried a carnival/beach theme, helped set the tone for many of the show’s songs and added to the Broadway feel of the performance.

In addition to her own hits, Midler offered a few selections from her latest CD, “Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook.” She also offered a dazzling mini-play within the show, featuring mermaid-style costumes and colorful stage props. Later, Midler, courtesy of video screens, offered a sentimental duet with the late Fred Rogers of “I Like to Be Told.” Her performance of the children’s number, like everything in the show, worked very well and engaged the sold-out crowd of 8,000.

Midler’s performance of “From a Distance” displayed the strength and beauty of her voice, while “Do You Want to Dance?” featured her ability to sing various musical genres – this time dipping into the world of R&B. Other highlights were a stirring performance of “Wind Beneath My Wings,” which drew a standing ovation and, of course, “The Rose.”

“I’m not retiring and you can’t make me?” Who would want to?

Miss M. is still most divine.

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