BootLeg Betty

Interview: Bette Midler on her first gig dates in UK since 1980

Glasgow Evening Times
Interview: Bette Midler on her first gig dates in UK since 1980
NEXT July, Bette Midler will play a string of gigs across the UK, her first here since 1980.
Friday 19/12/2014

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A second date had to be added in London after the first sold out, so why has she been away so long? Was it something we said?

“No, no, no,” insists Midler. “I guess life interfered.”

To be fair, the artist, also known as The Divine Miss M – the title of her 1972 debut album – has been pretty busy.

As well as racking up a trio of Grammy Awards and selling more than 30 million records worldwide, she has proved her acting chops, starring in The First Wives Club and Hocus Pocus, not to mention the ultimate tearjerker Beaches, for which she also recorded her most famous ballad, Wind Beneath My Wings.

In terms of music and movie success, only Cher can really rival the Hawaii-born performer. Midler hasn’t shied away from the stage, either. She completed a two-year stint of nightly live performances in Vegas in 2010, a time she looks back on as “the most beautiful show I ever did. That means a lot to me”.

Not that she misses the gruelling schedule.

“It was hard work,” she recalls. “I had a little adrenal failure, where you just can’t get up every night. I was having Vitamin B12 shots to get through.”

More recently, Miss M has been back in the studio, recording It’s The Girls! – an album of girl group covers. It’s an idea that she jokes has been “floating around since 1871 or something”. Featuring ladies-only tracks from the Thirties onwards, Midler wanted the production style to reflect the Sixties girl-group heyday.

“It was rough back in those days. The music had an immediacy, because it wasn’t processed, and that’s the charm, selling the music to teenagers because they sounded like teenagers.”

So does the 69-year-old think her voice can cope with such a youthful sound?

“There are certain parts of my voice that sound very young. I never smoked like a real fiend, so I didn’t lose the top end of my voice. You can keep your high voice, but you have to look after yourself. I run on the treadmill. And it’s only for the pumps – I don’t care whether I’m thin or fat, but I care about whether the lungs are working to drive the voice.

“It’s like a car, you have to take care of it!” she adds, laughing.

Whatever Midler’s doing, it’s working; it’s hard to believe that the slender, 5ft 1in singer is heading for her eighth decade.

Midler tells me she keeps up with contemporary music too, and chose all the modern tracks on the album, like TLC’s Waterfalls, herself. In fact, she wishes she’d been able to do more.

“I was going to do Bills, Bills, Bills, because I love it.”

The R’n’B hit didn’t make the final cut, but she says she’s a huge fan of “fantastic” Destiny’s Child.

“They were the last of the girl groups. They had the close harmonies and the attitude. It’s otherworldly what Beyonce can do.”

She professes her admiration for “divine” Nicole Scherzinger too, but Midler doesn’t feel the love for all the female artists in the charts today. During an interview, she criticised 21-year-old pop star Ariana Grande for “looking ridiculous”.

But the pair soon made up – Grande responded on Twitter saying she’s “always a fan no matter what”, and Midler replied asking for forgiveness.

Right now, the universally adored star is focusing on the future and next year’s transatlantic tour.

“It’s a way off yet, so I’ll be getting ready for the most of 2015,” she says.

“People here are real music fans – they want a music show.

“And you Brits get the music hall element of it all. You have that old showbiz tradition. In the States, a lot of people think what I’m doing is brand new.

“I’m grateful this all makes sense (here).”

Rumour has it this will be Miss M’s farewell tour. Are the whispers true?

“Possibly,” she admits. “I don’t know how wise it is to go on forever. If the spirit is willing and the flesh is strong, then go for it.

“There are people who come alive when they think about the possibilities of travelling in their retirement.”

A safe bet would be to snap up a ticket now, and catch The Divine Miss M while you still can.

Bette Midler’s new album It’s The Girls! is out now. She will be performing at the SSE Hydro on July 13, next year.

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