KMB Review: Denver, Colorado

Midler’s brass, sass melt away years
By Mike Pearson, Rocky Mountain News
February 2, 2004

The average concertgoer’s age at the start of a Bette Midler concert is perhaps 48. The average age by the time it’s over is 20 years younger. The Divine Miss M has a way of melting away the years with a mixture of brass, sass and note-perfect phrasing.

Factor in her gift for gab, and this lady really knows how to work a crowd.

So it was at the Pepsi Center on Saturday, where Midler’s Kiss My Brass tour arrived ahead of a storm and stayed long enough to see the skies clear and the stars come out.

The biggest star, of course, was Midler herself. She’s been doing this diva thing for 30 years now, and she has it down to a science. Audiences may want melodic music and nice sets (in this case, Coney Island circa 1900), but mostly they want lots of fun for their buck. With the top seats fetching $150, Midler delivered the goods: 2 ½ hours of bawdy humor and beautiful ballads, tempered by a genuine affection for her audience.

Arriving atop a carousel pony that seemed to float through the air, she treated the crowd of 12,000-plus to 30 years of her own music and 60 years of American standards. Stuff Like That sounded the opening salvo, giving way to Skylark, When A Man Loves a Woman and the achingly plaintive Shiver Me Timbers.

In between there was comedy, socializing and more comedy. It’s a rarity when artists do their homework before hitting town, and Midler breezed through jokes on John Elway’s selection for the NFL Hall of Fame (“He’d like to be here, but he’s busy opening a steakhouse”) to the 16th Street Mall to Cheesman Park (“I’m so glad you boys stopped cruising long enough to come visit me”).

And there were jokes at her own expense, notably a video parody featuring Judge Judy holding Midler accountable for her canceled CBS series Bette. Must have been her telling David Letterman that she felt like a beetle pushing a ball of dung uphill.

Act II opened in typically Midleresque style: with a parody of a Broadway-bound revue starring ditzy mermaid Delores Delago, the Toast of Chicago, ripping through half a dozen Broadway snippets from Hello, Dolly!, Oklahoma and Chicago. She even threw in the old Blue Magic Classic Sideshow. You don’t see that every day.

Of course, it was Midler’s music the people really came to hear, and there was a lot of it – Do You Wanna Dance?, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, From A Distance, Wind Beneath My Wings – delivered in a strong, clear voice that filled the Pepsi Center. At 58, Midler’s not just getting older, she’s getting even better.

A few quibbles nonetheless: She performed only one song (Hey There) from The Rosemary Clooney Songbook, for which she’s up for a Grammy, and the energy of Act II was slow in building. A 20-minute intermission left things to simmer a bit too long.

Like any good race, it was the finish that mattered most.

What’s a baby boomer to do when a film clip from The Rose flashes overhead, and suddenly there’s Midler singing the title song? What else but sing along and pretend it’s 1979 all over again.

A Bette Midler show is part vaudeville, part Stork Club, part theater of the absurd. In other words, the makings of a perfectly swell time.

Share A little Divinity
Verified by MonsterInsights