Bette Midler review: She’s still a funny, formidable tour de force
By Ross Raihala
POSTED: 06/07/2015 12:01:00 AM CDT
Now 69, Bette Midler retired just one thing during her Sunday night show at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center.
Midway through her two-hour set, Midler bid farewell to her famed mermaid character, Delores Delago, in a mock “In memoriam” video interlude straight out of an old awards show. Really, though, Delores was barely missed. Just like Midler’s old pal Mick Jagger (age 71) did a few days ago at TCF Bank Stadium, Midler gave an energetic, almost ageless, performance that had the crowd of more than 10,000 eating out of the palm of her hand.
Midler has spent the past 45 years singing, dancing, acting and cracking jokes. She used all of those skills, and more, Sunday night in an evening that was far more than just another arena show.
At times, it felt like a flashy one-woman Broadway show, at other times like an intimate, confessional cabaret performance. The one constant, of course, was Midler, who radiates such charisma, it’s difficult not to root for her. “I’m like vodka,” she announced early on. “Ageless, odorless and tasteless.”
Indeed, Midler has not softened her bawdy humor with age and dropped as many four-letter words on stage as a drunk metal band. During one of several extended rants, she marveled over celebrity sex tapes: “I could kick myself for not having the brains to monetize my sex life. I could have been a billionaire by the time I was 30.” She then showed a montage of doctored photos showing her in bed with, among others, Richard Nixon, Vladimir Putin and Chris Christie.
Of Tom Brady, she said, “I was the first to suggest that he might want to deflate his balls,” and of Bruce Jenner, “We had the most perfect evening. We watched ‘Beaches’ and painted each other’s toenails.”
In a particularly inspired moment, Midler chatted about how what’s considered sexually attractive has changed in her life. “Butts have kicked boobs to the curb. … We’ve gone from ‘Do these jeans make my butt look big?’ to ‘Do these jeans make my butt look big enough?’ ”
Oh, and Midler sang, too. She doesn’t hit the high notes like she once did, but she’s still got a powerful voice and can belt with the best of them. Early in the set, she tackled some of the girl-group numbers she covers on her latest album “It’s the Girls,” including the Exciters’ “Tell Him,” the Andrew Sisters’ “Bei Mir Bist du Schon” and TLC’s “Waterfalls,” transformed from a ’90s R&B jam into a high-drama, old-school piano ballad.
The crowd loved it when she came out dressed as a witch from her 1993 film “Hocus Pocus” and did “I Put a Spell on You.” But they saved their loudest cheers for Midler’s big ones, “From a Distance,” “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “Stay with Me” among them. She introduced “The Rose” by saying “Everyone likes to sing along to this next song. Please don’t. There’s only room for one diva in this hockey arena, and that’d be me.”