KMB Review: D.C.


Photo: BaltoBoy Steve

Bette Midler inspires tears and laughter
January 29, 2004 1:09 am

Bette Midler’s new “Kiss My Brass” concert tour is part stand-up comedy, part retrospective, part phenomenal music, and all a whole lot of fun.

Midler, who has been performing for more than 30 years, brought her first- ever tour with a horn section to the MCI Center Friday night. The tour goes to the Hampton Coliseum March 6.

At MCI, the stage was filled with a boardwalk scene, complete with a curtain painted with a 1940s boardwalk image. Midler–who always makes an entrance–flew to the stage on a carousel horse. With horns blaring and the band shouting, “Hey, Bette Midler,” she opened the show with the new song “Kiss My Brass.”

“I have returned,” she announced, to the cheers of the crowd. “How are you, D.C.? I’m fabulous. Don’t I look it? Even I don’t know how I do it.”

As the band played behind her, she riffed on President Bush and his recent State of the Union address. She also took shots at Rush Limbaugh. The liberal Midler isn’t a fan of either man.

But she’s willing to get as good as she gives, at one point using a “Judge Judy” clip to poke fun at her own television failure with the CBS series “Bette.” Judge Judy ordered her to apologize to everyone who’s ever had a television, and she appeared on stage wearing devil horns and a tail and singing, “I’m Sorry.”

And then there was the music. Her first song after the opening was “Skylark,” from her second album, recorded in the ’70s. She went into her first top-10 hit, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” while clips of her singing the song earlier in her career played on screens behind her.

From her early work to her most recent, Midler launched into “Hey There,” from “Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook,” a project she did with one of her earliest collaborators, Barry Manilow.

“Rosemary’s spirit was in every note,” Midler said of her newest album.

Midler’s voice was crystal clear and strong on “I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today,” from her movie “Beaches.” After her Soph and Clementine bawdy vaudeville-type jokes, she ended the first half of the show with a moving rendition of “Shiver Me Timbers.”

Midler’s post-intermission act is often Delores DeLago, the Toast of Chicago, a mermaid who wants to be a star and performs her singing and dancing show in a motorized wheelchair. DeLago’s show in this tour is “Fish Tales Over Broadway,” which includes songs such as “Everything’s Coming up Fishes,” and a Fosse-esque “All That Shad.”

Keeping perfect balance between the lighthearted and serious parts of her show, Midler followed DeLago with a tribute to Mr. Rogers, then a new song called “Reliving September,” about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“Another song, another time, the same message: Peace on Earth,” she said during the opening notes of her next song, “From a Distance.”

As the crowd pleaded for an encore, a film clip from Midler’s first movie, 1979’s “The Rose,” began playing, and she came back to the stage to belt out “Keep on Rockin'” and then “The Rose.”

The 58-year-old Midler is a consummate performer–singing, dancing and telling jokes–and her fan base spans all ages and types of people.

There aren’t many people her age who can move the way Midler does during one of her concerts–from dancing to hopping around in a mermaid suit. Her voice is as strong as ever, and she can still hit every high note in every song.

Throughout the concert, Midler kept assuring fans, “I’m not retiring, and you can’t make me.” Her fans hope the Divine Miss M will continue entertaining them for a long time to come.

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