P-Town PHLIPS Over Midler

No need for Midler to think about retirement
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Journal Pop Music Writer

PROVIDENCE — There’s not much fault you can find with an entertainer who, in the course of a show, sings on a flying horse, a floating swan and one of those senior-citizen scooters, and Bette Midler did all that and more at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center last night. But she also had more than enough classic vocal power to handle the serious stuff.

The Kiss My Brass Tour was a full-on celebration of pre-rock variety entertainment, with Midler (“ageless, timeless and relentless,” as she put it) as a singing, dancing and comedic triple threat. Call it vaudeville, or maybe multimedia done the old-fashioned way.

“Big Noise From Winnetka” and “Stuff Like That There” got the show off to a swinging start, and Midler showed a still-impressive voice on sultry ballads such as “Skylark.”

The comedic corn was sometimes as high as an elephant’s eye (how long ago was the Angelina Jolie-Billy Bob Thornton vials-of-blood thing?), but she took care to include in her comic sights local targets (“I made it! The Dunkin’ Donuts Center! Who says dreams don’t come true?” and “Buddy Cianci told me he wasn’t free to come tonight”) and herself (at her age, “I gotta take the gingko biloba to remember to take the Lipitor”).

Pretty much all the classics were there, from her first hits “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and a ballad version of “Do Ya Wanna Dance?” to two selections (“Hey There” and “Tenderly”) from her latest record, a tribute to Rosemary Clooney. Of course there was “Wind Beneath My Wings,” more affecting than the overblown recorded version, and “The Rose,” unfortunately more overblown than the affecting recorded version.

Her comic alter ego, Delores DeLago (“the toast of Chicago”) had a long turn after intermission, with a story of the fish lady’s rise, fall and rise on Broadway full of song parodies (“All That Shad,” for one) and laffs. A little too silly and a little too long.

Still, every time there were a few too many hot-cha-cha jokes, and you started not to take Midler seriously, she reeled you back in with heart-stoppers such as “When a Man Loves a Woman” and “Shiver Me Timbers” to remind everyone what she does best.

“I’m not retiring and you can’t make me,” Midler yelled early on in the show. While she won’t be able to do the old-style hoofing and joking forever, she proved last night that when she gets old enough that she can only stand and sing, she’ll still be worth the price of admission.

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