That Midler will out-diva her rivals — young and old — is practically a sure thing
By Mark Lowry
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
Bette Midler has said that the main impetus for her latest tour — her first in four years — is to prove that unlike other divas her age, she ain’t gonna retire anytime soon.
So she cheekily titled the tour “Kiss My Brass.” It launched Dec. 10 in Chicago and continues through March, plunking down at Dallas’ American Airlines Center on Thursday.
If you haven’t seen Midler in concert before, then, boy, are you in for a show. At age 58, Midler consistently shows more energy, charisma and chutzpah than any singer one-third, or even one-fourth, her age.
Britney, Christina, Hilary, Usher, Beyonce, et al.: You simply can’t compare with the Divine Miss M.
What’s even more remarkable is that Midler always outclasses her peers. Yes, we’re talking about you, Barbra Streisand and Cher.
Take Cher’s forever-long farewell tour, for instance. In typical Cher fashion, it was a huge spectacle with dazzling sets, costume changes and choreography. And Cher’s voice was still in top form. She commanded the stage, but she wasn’t able to convince that she was emotionally or physically invested in her own show. Her position was obvious: She’s foreground, everything else background.
Midler, on the other hand, has the spectacle but is always part of her show. She’s not too proud to get her goof on with her back-up performers, and she’s not afraid to let us see her sweat. She might be top-billed, but she’s not the only attraction.
It’s the closest thing we have to modern vaudeville. And a Midler show always includes a little satire. In “Kiss My Brass,” she performs Chapel of Love over video images of ill-fated couples: Angelina and Billy Bob, Pamela and Tommy Lee, Liza and David (“Liza with an ex.”)
Let’s move on to that other grand dame of song and stage: la Streisand. Babs may have the most heralded voice of her generation, but she can’t touch Bathhouse Betty when it comes to vocal stylizing. Barbra is all about overdoing it. She oversings and oversells, and her albums are overproduced (see last year’s disappointing The Movie Album). When it comes to interpreting other people’s songs, she’s simply overrated.
Bette can certainly go over the top, too, but at least she doesn’t package it in overearnestness. And as she proves on her latest album, Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook, she just might be the best living interpreter of pop standards. To find someone who does it better, you’d have to look back at folks like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Clooney herself.
In other words, Bette Midler is the entire package.
While the others, young and old, are trying to out-sing, out-dance or out-perform everyone else, Bette aims to entertain like nobody else can.