Bette Midler, Birmingham Barclaycard Arena, review: ‘The comic timing of Joan Rivers, the singing voice sass of Tina Turner
By John Nathan11:16PM BST 09 Jul 2015Most rock ‘n’ roll audiences understand that it’s a very rock ‘n’ roll thing to do to keep an audience waiting. But when many of them are in their sixties, as was the case in Birmingham’s packed 14,000 seat Barclaycard Stadium last night, understanding starts to wear thin.
â€œOh dearâ€ said one grey haired lady sitting in the top priced seats of Â£110.00 as the delay approached half an hour, the ice in her gin and tonic all but melted. Then, two impromptu slow hand claps and one spontaneous Mexican wave later the wait ended in glorious bad taste. A projection of Michelangelo’s hand of god, the one in the Sistine Chapel, is revealed to be attached to Bette Midler’s grinning face. And the audience, elderly or not, roared their approval.
Dressed in something small pink and proudly showing legs that looked at least two decades younger than their 69 years, Midler kicked off her first UK tour for 35 years with a blizzard of gags and close harmony singing as tight as a corset.
â€œHow many of you drove here tonight?â€ she bellows. To the hands that go up she said, â€œSo good to see that some of my fans can still drive at night.â€ An entire section of the audience is described as 50 shades of grey. â€œI don’t now if I should sing to you or talk about the benefits of equity release,â€ says the film and pop star.
It is hard to think of any other performer that could deliver a show with the comic timing of Joan Rivers and a singing voice with the sass and charisma, if not these days the power, of Tina Turner. It is a voice backed by a big band and accompanied by a trio of equally bawdily backing singer’s who Midler introduces as ‘my girls’. It’s at it’s most tender with a stripped down version of TLC’s 1994 hit Waterfalls (from the album), and the sheer drive and energy with which she sings The Exciter’s 1962 hit Tell Him make’s the oldie utterly her own. Although, they get older. With the Andrews Sister’s hit of Bei Mir Bist Di Schon (it was originally a Yiddish song) we’re back to that harmony so tight and true you couldn’t slip a cigarette paper between the notes. And I Think It’s Going To Rain, from the film Beaches, is sung with a genuinely moving sense of solitude.
The music is international. But much the comedy has been adapted to British tastes. A riff on how she wish she had ‘monetised’ her sex life a la Kim Kardashian is accompanied with projected mocked up selfies of her in bed with lovers of the past including, Putin, Jeremy Clarkson (cue a comment about gear sticks) and Jamie Oliver (something obscene with a lettuce leaf).
Audience favourite hits such as Rose and that obscenely sentimental number one The Wind Beneath My Wings didn’t come till late on. But by then nobody minded the wait.
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