Review: Bette Midler still has the wind beneath her wings
â€˜A triumph of science and fiction,â€™ Bette Midler show at Rogers Arena a combination of music and comedy
BY FRANCOIS MARCHAND, POSTMEDIA NEWS JUNE 3, 2015 12:57 AM
A little crass, plenty of sass, and in a class of her own: Bette Midlerâ€™s concert at Rogers Arena in Vancouver Tuesday contained everything that has made the 69-year-old multi-talented performer a jewel in the world of entertainmentâ€™s gilded crown.
Walking into Rogers Arena, you immediately had a sense of Midlerâ€™s core audience: Couples of all stripes, young and old (but mostly grey-haired), and mom-and-daughter pairs, many of whom could easily afford the steep ticket prices for the privilege of spending a two-hour evening with Midler.
For the 10th tour in her career, and her first in more than a decade, Midler was mainly promoting her latest album Itâ€™s The Girls, her collection of songs from female performers like TLC, The Ronettes, The Crystals, and The Andrews Sisters.
There would also be the parade of classics spanning her career, all the way back to her Divine Miss M. days back in the 1970s.
Starting a good 15 minutes past her scheduled set time, which drew whistles and shouts from the audience, Midler opened with Divine Intervention in a multimedia-heavy sequence rivalling her modern-day contemporaries, video showing Midler in Michelangeloâ€™s Sistine Chapel painting reaching for the finger of God, the mural shattering to make way for a tornado ripping through the curtains, making way for Midler, sitting next to a broken Coke machine on a white armchair.
Backed by about a dozen musicians and three backup singers/dancers, Midler quickly shifted into comedy mode, â€œready to lift your spirits like a boob job for your soul.â€
Midler poked fun at herself and her fans, unafraid to take a few jabs at the â€œ50 shades of greyâ€ in the audience.
It wasnâ€™t always classy, and intentionally so. Calling Vancouver â€œthe Pearl of the Orientâ€ generated as many groans as it did grins.
â€œThe only question: Donâ€™t I look fabulous?â€ she asked. â€œIâ€™m a triumph of science and fiction.â€
She looked fantastic, and she sounded mighty fine too.
The first half of the show was heavy on Itâ€™s The Girls material, Midler singing the praises of girl groups in a segment dubbed Auntie Bâ€™s Rock â€™nâ€™ Soul Revue.
A cover of The Excitersâ€™ Tell Him was spirited and fun, Midlerâ€™s backup trio sporting sassy fringe dresses.
The show was obviously heavily rehearsed, but Midler took some creative liberties with the script, showing her local knowledge when she asked someone in the front row who either had good connections or a padded wallet if they were from Shaughnessy.
â€œHow tall is your hedge?â€ she quipped, sending the arena roaring.
Andrews Sistersâ€™ Bei Mir Bist Du Schon was a nod to Midlerâ€™s Yiddish roots and her version of TLCâ€™s Waterfalls, done solo under the spotlight with piano and twinkling percussion in the background, was an emotional highlight.
In a bit poking fun at social media, Midler bemoaned not having monetized her sex life like the Kardashians, showing bedroom pictures of herself with men like Richard Nixon, Tom Brady (and his â€œdeflated ballsâ€) and Bruce Jenner (now Caitlyn).
â€œWe watched Beaches and painted each otherâ€™s toenails.â€
It sometimes made for weird transitions, the anti-Facebook comedy leading into Leonard Cohenâ€™s Everybody Knows. Thematically it fit but the tonal shift into Broadway-esque serious bombast was an odd transition.
I Think Itâ€™s Going To Rain Today, the Randy Newman song Midler covered on the Beaches soundtrack, had more punch, showing Midlerâ€™s vulnerability.
The more well-known material followed, including an I Put A Spell On You done in full Hocus Pocus costume that was hilarious, as was a dancer hatching from a giant egg in a farm sequence featuring Yakety Sax used as a an opportunity for a costume change before big cabaret number A Bird In The Hand.
Yep, it was often a little too all over the place, blurring the lines between comedic and serious. But what else could you expect from Bette?