The venue: The MGM Grand Garden City Arena is a huge Arena (same place Mayweather fought Pacquio a couple weeks ago), that was probably about 85% full. Most of the floor seats were taken, but there were quite a few empty seats scattered throughout the bleachers. I was in the third row center, and it turns out the entire third row started the “meet and greeters”. For most of the fans who remembered her at the cushy Caesar’s Palace, we were quite disappointed with the venue seating. For $1,250 we were sandwiched in with zero leg room in front of us, sitting on folding chairs. In fact, we were so packed in that it was impossible for any of us to get up to go to the bathroom (a challenge with a 2-hour straight-through performance with no intermission) without the entire row getting up and exiting to the aisle to let us get in and out. In fact, that’s exactly what we did. Right before the performance started (30 minutes late), those of us who partook in the open bar felt we’d better hit the restroom before the show, so six of us decided to take a quick trip to the loo at the same time. I understand from the ushers that all of her performances are slated to start at least 20 minutes late, with the single 45-minute late performance on her tour being the exception. The 30-minute late start seemed appropriate as there was a 5.4 earthquake in California that afternoon, and part of the Vegas freeway was closed down due to a crack in the asphalt. What should have been a 20 minute trip to the MGM ended up taking over an hour, due to an overflow of bumper to bumper cars making their way through the cross-streets of Vegas..
The VIP room: A standard convention-style meeting room with round tables that sat about 10 per table. Food was excellent, and included some of the best pot roast and mashed potatoes I’ve ever eaten. An open bar, added to the touch, with wine and spirits in abundance, for those who wanted to pass on the soft drinks. I’d say there were close to 60 people in the VIP room, which was a sizeable amount considering each paid $1,000+ per ticket. (see posts below for photos)
Set Design and Costumes: A quite novel twist on Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, the show started similar to the tornado-like intro we saw at Caesar’s. I found out that the image on the curtains was a projected screen-shot, and the entire back wall of the stage was also a projection screen that displayed quite a few moving video-type images. This leap in technology had to save a lot of money for set design, and looked absolutely stunning, as various images moved throughout each song in the performance. Costumes were similar to shows in the past, but definitely outstanding: frills, feathers, and sequins that were tastefully over the top.
The Performance: Bette‘s voice was in top form, and I loved the way she would slightly change her vocal intonations on some songs to reflect a more subdued passion in the lyrics. What I love about Bette is she has a way of singing a song, and you always get the feeling that you’re hearing the song for the very first time. Her depth as an actor really illuminates her vocal delivery, and it was difficult to get through some of her ballads without shedding a tear. I felt the song set was more of a retrospective from over the years, highlighting some of the songs not as frequently sung in the past. Her jokes were contemporary and fresh, and I felt that there was a valiant effort to make this a “new” concert, rather than relive the same concert that we’ve experienced so many times in the past. Of course, her standards were there, and she delivered with huge enthusiasm from the crowd. Backup Harlettes were pitch perfect, and oh so fun to watch.
The Songs: It appears that Bette dropped a couple songs, perhaps due to the late start. I don’t recall her singing Miss Otis Regrets, and yes, the previously dropped “Be My Baby” and “Tenderly” remained missing. She added another song mid-set, that wasn’t on the list, but sadly I was unfamiliar, so couldn’t quite catch the title. That song, however, along with “Everybody Knows” could easily become hits, or at minimum show up on her next CD. This was clearly not an “It’s the Girls” tour, as only three songs made it: “Tell Him”, “Bei Mir Mist du Schoen” and “Waterfalls”.
The Legend: Mister D, I have to be straight and honest about this, but even though we all love Bette dearly, I have a feeling this may be her last tour. She’s starting to “lose it”, although she is such a professional, she did an amazing job covering up some of her lapses in performance with jokes and panache. In many ways, the show came across as un-rehearsed. Either she was very nervous, or needed a few more practice sessions to get it right. She had to pause midway through many of her jokes to remember the story or the punchline. She started to sing one song only to have the band stop, so she could start over as she forgot the lyrics. Even though the running gag is that we’re all so old together that we’re on oxygen, it almost became a crutch for her forgetfulness. It wasn’t hugely apparent, as it provided a bit of playfulness and comic relief for the audience, but it happened so many times throughout her performance that I started to get concerned. It came close to me wondering whether she would be able to make it through to the end of her set. (Mister D: Ron and I have emailed back and forth and it was brough to his attention that most of Miss M’s forgetfulness was part of the act.)
The ***Meet and Greet***: Don, if you don’t mind getting a phone call from me, please let me know your number and the best time to call. I’d love to talk about this with you, or you may call me at home, xxx-xxx-xxxx. Briefly, though, the “meet and greet” was really a mass-production stand-in-line, 15 seconds per person photo opportunity. Bette commented on my shirt (it had vertical black and white stripes, so she asked if I was a bowler). I didn’t reply to that as I wanted to quickly get out that I had seen her 50 times in concert over the past 40 years, starting at the Berkeley Community Theater in the early 70’s. I also mentioned that she is just as ‘perfect’ today as she was back in 1973, when I first saw her. I also mentioned that I had the good fortune to meet her four times previously and also had the opportunity to meet or encounter some of her best and biggest fans along the way: Richie Blumberg, Don Bandel and Linda Gentile, Darrell Redmond, and of course, yours truly, Don Bradshaw! She stopped me at Don Bandel and said “I know him”, but I kind of got the feeling she didn’t quite believe me, and really had to pause, as if to scratch her head, with the somewhat awkward babbling on my part. I closed with, “all of your fans love you”, and she thanked me for attending the show. My fifteen seconds were up, and I was warned in advance by one of the ushers that I couldn’t really ‘chat’ as there was a long line of people waiting to get their picture taken.
Hope you’re well, Don, and I’d like to know more about how you’re doing personally. I turned on a few people sitting at the VIP table to your website, and they instantly jumped on your site to check out Bootleg Betty. Oddly, in my conversations with about a half-dozen fans there, most had only seen Bette in concert once or twice before, which I found surprising for their age (yes, we’re all getting up there), and the price that was paid for these tickets. That was the head-scratcher for me.
I have to close (you know me, I can go on and on forever), but I wish to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your persistence, diligence, and dedication in keeping up with the best of Bette, and the best website out there!! You are the wind beneath all of our wings!!!