Photo: BaltoBoy Steve
Invigorated Miss M is still divine
Bombastic, yet tender, full of both crass and class, Bette Midler’s “Kiss My Brass” tour proves the singer still has what it takes
It can never be said that Bette Midler hasn’t given her all for show business. The 58-year-old singer/actress/comedian proved her staying power to a packed crowd at the Rose Garden arena Wednesday night with a show that combined her multiple talents in sassy-brassy appeal only the Divine Miss M could put forth.
Sure, she was over the top. Sure, she was crass. Sure, she was loud. But through nearly three hours of song, story and dance, Midler proved she’s one of a kind — a throwback to an earlier era of performer, but at the same time unique and completely entertaining.
Her new tour, aptly titled the Kiss My Brass Tour, showed off an invigorated Midler — slim and trim and full of trademark show-stopping numbers, feisty shtick and big-voiced ballads.
Clad in a glittering sailor suit and sporting Shirley Temple curls, Midler rode in on a suspended carousel horse against a lavish backdrop carnival set that resembled Coney Island.
“I have returned!” she said triumphantly. “I’m fabulous — don’t I look it?” she yelled, with boisterous cheers from the audience.
Backed by a razor-sharp band and three singer/dancers, Midler hit on all cylinders with a high-energy, often bombastic show, with swinging tunes such as her trademark “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” performed with a video of herself from the ’70s, and “Chapel of Love,” complete with her peddling a lighted cycle-powered swan. She really poured on the gaudy Broadway-meets-Vegas style with a faux-Broadway revue, with her as diva “Delores Delgado,” a tacky-fun mermaid who spewed tasteless fish jokes over a medley of reworked Broadway tunes and silly wheelchair choreography.
Midler, always the comedian, told plenty of timely, and sometimes bawdy, jokes, poking fun at the current administration and jabbing at local places (“Canby, show me your mullets,” she shouted). She fit in plenty of self-deprecating humor, especially in a “Judge Judy” video spoof, where she was sentenced to apologize for her sitcom flop “Bette,” to which she responded with her version of “I’m Sorry.”
As grand as the show was, there were tender moments. Midler performed several tunes from her celebrated “Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook,” including a sincere version of “Come On-A My House.” While not as subtle or smooth as Clooney, Midler’s clear, expressive voice paid homage to the late singer.
The second half of the show was more sentimental, as Midler sang chart-topping ballads including “From a Distance,” the tearjerker “Wind Beneath My Wings,” which was delivered straightforward and heartfelt, and her classic, “The Rose,” which became a crowd sing-along.
The Divine and beloved Miss M proved she still has what it takes to wow an audience. And her tight band, which included veterans such as percussionist Lenny Castro and guitarist Jon Herrington, backing singers and elaborate stage sets, made for a show that delivered, sometimes in gaudy fashion — just like Midler. It was a whirlwind of unabashedly over-the-top entertainment, but isn’t she still great?