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Thursday, March 18, 2004
The Farr Side: Diving in with the ultimate diva
By David T. Farr
The Divine Miss M is a true diva.The multi-talented Bette Midler’s “Kiss My Brass” tour is one of the year’s hottest attractions and it’s easy to see why. The show just finished its run through Michigan with a stop at Van Andel Arena last week.
Being a diva is knowing how to make a great stage entrance, and she’s a pro. I didn’t have to tell you that. You already know her persona.
The sounds of soaring seagulls and crashing waves combined with a seaside landscape provided the interlude for her entrance that was surely one to be remembered. Midler descended from high above on a carousel horse while proclaiming she’s “not retiring, and you can’t make me.”
She hopped off the horse in her anchors-away sailor pantsuit and began a brassy little medley of “Kiss My Brass/Big Noise” with her newly-formed Harlettes.
She’s not easy to categorize because she can sing anything. She proved that several times during the multi-media carnival stage production her show is.
She performed several of her well-known theatrical hits, including “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “Skylark.” She even dusted off some of her old characters from years gone by like Sophie Tucker, complete with the Harlettes in beach motif. The jokes alone were worth the ticket price. And then, there was Delores Delago, the toast of Chicago.
Midler and the Harlettes were dolled up in mermaid costumes and zipping about the stage in electric wheelchairs. It truly was a sight to see.
She sang several numbers in this get-up, including fishy versions of songs from “Gypsy,” “West Side Story,” “Chicago” and “Cabaret.” I hope this isn’t the beginning of a vaudeville return.
When Midler cast aside the gaudy costuming to focus on her major catalog of hit songs, she made everyone stop and take listen to what a truly gifted singer she really is. Her voice, even at 58, is great. It didn’t show any signs of tiring as she belted out song after song, even on her Janis Joplin-esque versions of “When A Man Loves A Woman” and “Keep On Rockin’” from her movie “The Rose.”
Her performances of “Human Kindness” and “September 11” showed her compassion, and her tribute to Rosemary Clooney on “Tenderly” and “Hey There” was quite nice.
Some of her pop songs have become immortalized in the hearts of many fans, including me. Just watching other fans of Midler’s while she performed “Wind Beneath My Wings,” “From A Distance,” “Friends,” “Do You Want To Dance,” and “The Rose” shown how much she is loved.
“The Rose” is my Midler song. There is something in the sound of her voice and the lyrics to that song that tugs at my heart like only a few songs can do. Seeing her perform it live and fully orchestrated, like an anthem, was nothing short of magnificent.