Bette’s A Hit InThe PITTS!


Review: Midler a slice of old-fashioned showbiz
By Regis Behe
Friday, January 9, 2004

Photo: Mr. Brian P.

If you call Bette Midler a broad or a babe, chances are she won’t take offense. Thursday night at the Mellon Arena, the Divine Miss M put on a show that was a throwback to the era before political correctness took hold.

Part schtick, part borscht belt humor, part good, old-fashioned showbiz, the evening lived up to the tour’s name: “Kiss My Brass.”

Midler opened the show against a Coney Island-style backdrop, descending from the rafters on a white, carousel horse. She blew kisses to a rather sedate audience, then launched into the big-band sound of “Kiss My Brass.”

Sounding (and looking) much less than her 58 years, she was helped immeasurably throughout the night by her crack band, which included a five-piece horn section, and three vamping dancers/singers.

After the opening number, Midler started launching jokes as if she was some strange female reincarnation of Henny Youngman and Lenny Bruce. Showing an astute awareness of her locale, she made references to Squirrel Hill and McKees Rocks (“show me your tattoos, babe”) and poked fun at Mayor Tom Murphy. Referring to the city’s financial problems and the recent rains, Midler said she heard Murphy was building an ark.

“I think he’s planning to float out of here rather than be voted out of here,” she said.

Murphy wasn’t the only one who was a target of Midler’s scathing wit. Saddam Hussein, she cracked, was going to be part of a new reality series, “Queer Eye for the Dictator Guy.”

Midler also threw barbs at President Bush, Christina Aguilera, Rush Limbaugh and PETA, but had the sense to turn her wit on herself.

In a hilarious send-up of her failed CBS television sitcom, Midler showed a video that included Judge Judy, Gary Coleman and David Letterman in a courtroom spoof. Her sentence: To apologize to everyone who ever bought a TV set, which caused Midler to reappear in a red tail and horns to sing “I’m Sorry,” which segued into “Friends.”

Midler did occasionally sing in the midst of all the zaniness and sometimes salty humor. “Skylark,” a song that dates back 30 years in her repertoire, was a bit of syrupy fluff.

But like a true professional, Midler recovered and breathed life into “Tenderly,” from her recently released tribute album to Rosemary Clooney. Then came a gorgeous, breezy version of “That’s How Heartaches Are Made” that was a slice of pop perfection.

Midler followed with two more gems, Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today” and Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman,” both rendered with passion and feeling that is a rare commodity in pop music today.

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