KMB Down Under Review: Brisbane Entertainment Centre

Kickin' Brass In Brisbane

The Courier Mail
Bette’s blend of class and crass goes beyond divine
Kathleen Noonan

Photo: Adam Smith

THE cyclonic musical, theatrical, comedic and cinematic force that is Bette Midler hit a packed Brisbane Entertainment Centre last night.

They stood and screamed as she rode in to town on a merry-go-round horse suspended from the ceiling.

That’s where the energy levels stayed.

It is her first tour here since 1979. It’s been way too long, yelled one fan. “How the hell are you Australia?” says Midler, hands on sassy hips. “Last time I was here the audience was on drugs. Now they’re on medication.”

It took 14 semi-trailers to move the lavish Broadway-style show set to town. The show was delayed by a 15-minute technical hitch. But it only needed one entertainer to transport the audience.

So where’d she take us? To Coney Island in the 19th century complete with beach murals, cabanas, ferris wheels. And back again. With a lot of wild detours.

Midler, her outstanding horns section and dancing/singing trio the Hartletts, opened with the show’s title song Kiss My Brass. Then the deliciously irreverent digs start to fly. No one is safe. Camilla. Hopoate. Yeast infections. Refugees centres. Shane Warne’s texting habits.

In a world where often lavish and over-the-top musical stage shows mask diminishing or lazy stars, comes this former pineapple canner in her 60th (60th!) year to rip that theory out, roots and all. Her show’s generous two-hour, 40-song program is shamelessly entertaining. There are few entertainers who can merge crass and class like Midler.

Midler seamlessly blended drama and comedy, backed by a 12-piece band, to deliver a big-swing Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, a lovely I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today and show-stopping When A Man Loves A Woman, later launching into classics like The Rose, From A Distance and Peter Allen’s evergreen Tenterfield Saddler.

If Midler never sings another note she should be remembered not just as a great original entertainer. She is a true original great.

Bette Midler performs again in Brisbane tomorrow night.

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