SSE Hydro, Glasgow
“Do I look fabulous, Glasgow?” Bette Midler asked the crowd, before the ensuing trademark quip: “I slept in a fridge for five years, let’s get on with it before I thaw!”
In her first UK tour for 35 years, the stalwart of stage and screen had more of a sprightly twinkle than any starlet I’ve seen in recent years. The Divine Intervention tour was unlike most gigs in another important way: Midler had banned cameras and videos and, in the main, the crowd adhered to her wishes. Enjoying her music in the moment, the gig had a more intimate feel. Warming the crowd up gently, and getting herself all fired up in the process, I’ve Still Got My Health (from the film Beaches) was shortly followed by a rousing Throw It Away (“I put the whore into hoarder,” she winked.)
The rest of the concert was chunked down into neat little segments: Auntie B’s Rock ‘n’ Soul revue, featuring Tell Him, praised the work of girl groups, then a pitch-perfect Bei Mir Bist Du Schon was the best example of her three backing singers’ seamless harmonies. TLC cover Waterfalls was an unexpected choice and yet her musical interpretation and words of wisdom about motherhood meant tears were falling all around before the song was over. “So much emotion, so early in the evening!” Midler wailed, with a camp twinkle and knowing nod, her warmth and humanity cleverly buried beneath an every-flowing barrage of cheap gags.
The digital revolution was lambasted, Hocus Pocus was incorporated (there’s to be a sequel, of course), a Club Canary stand-up turn brought vulgarity into variety and there was even an Oscars-style tribute to Delores Delago. The final section was the supreme justification for the high ticket prices (although the production values and fantastic band were out of this world) as The Rose, From a Distance and Stay With Me were followed by an encore of Wind Beneath My Wings and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. Midler’s request for no singing along was adhered to, and – as promised – she gave the nod when joining in with “the Diva” was permissible. Finally, she apologised for it having taken so long to play the city; I’m sure she’d be very welcome back – divine intervention is always welcome.