BootLeg Betty

Concert Review: Tour de force: The irrepressible Ms Midler is on top form (Leeds)

Daily Mail
Can Ms Midler still cut it at 69? You Bette! Singer makes a divine at her live shows
By ADRIAN THRILLS FOR THE DAILY MAIL
PUBLISHED: 19:59 EST, 16 July 2015

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She once referred to her musical residency in Las Vegas as The Showgirl Must Go On, and the indefatigable Bette Midler is showing plenty of staying power and dramatic flair on her first British tour in 35 years.

The American singer’s Divine Intervention show in Leeds on Wednesday was a two-hour blockbuster that contained very little slack.

Combining music and bawdy humour, it made the long wait for her return worthwhile. A superb, 12-piece backing band, plus three female harmony singers, only added to the impact.

Midler had banned camera phones in advance, preferring to see fans caught up in the moment, and the decision proved sound as her performance got off to an electrifying start, with a capacity Yorkshire crowd fully engaged.

The singer turns 70 later this year, but she still came onstage in a bright pink mini dress before running through a series of self-deprecating gags on the ageing process. ‘I’m a triumph of both science and fiction,’ she said. ‘I’m like vodka: ageless, odourless — and tasteless.’

Her jokes quickly struck a chord with a predominantly middle-aged audience that she described as ‘50 shades of grey in one block alone’.
Miss M has tried her hand at big-band swing, pop and rock over the years, and this gig reiterated her versatility. Jazz standard Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most was beautifully sung, while The Rolling Stones’ Beast Of Burden alluded to her brief stint as a rock ’n’ roller in the Eighties.

Her most recent album, It’s The Girls!, was a tribute to classic female groups, and she touched on the theme again in a section dubbed Auntie B’s Rock ’n’ Soul Revue, romping through The Exciters’ Tell Him before slowing for a touching rendition of R&B trio TLC’s Waterfalls.

The evening was as notable for its quick-fire one-liners as its music. These asides were obviously scripted, but Midler’s sense of timing is so good that she could also ad-lib in response to cries from the crowd. She even adapted her banter to suit northern English tastes, with references to Yorkshire pubs, Coronation Street and, during I Put A Spell On You, a plan to turn local singer Scary Spice into Mayoress of Leeds.

Uproariously naughty in places, she also bemoaned the fact she had never been able to ‘monetise’ her sex life in the manner of Kim Kardashian. There followed a series of mocked-up ‘selfies’, projected onto a large screen, that showed Midler with a string of bogus lovers.

Among her alleged conquests were Vladimir Putin, Boris Johnson, Jamie Oliver, Nigel Farage (roundly jeered) and Jeremy Clarkson (who ‘went from 0 to 60 in five seconds’).

The show climaxed with her biggest hits, the ballads From A Distance, Wind Beneath My Wings and The Rose being greeted with standing ovations, while Midler revealed enduringly impressive lung-power on the Lorraine Ellison weepie Stay With Me before finishing with an upbeat Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.

‘We’re here to lift your spirits, like a boob job for your soul,’ she promised at the start. Two hours later, she had done just that.

â–  Bette Midler plays the O2 Arena in London tomorrow and Sunday (livenation.co.uk).

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