BetteBack March 17, 1973: Twice More With A Feeling

Los Angeles Times
March 17, 1973

Instagram: @bettebae


By the time Bette Midler made her local debut last December at the Troubadour, there was already enough enthusiastic advance word on her to pack the West Hollywood club every night of her weeklong engagement.

Her popularity has continued so rapidly – her album, appropriately titled “The Divine Miss M,” is already at the edge of the national top 10 – that her return to Los Angeles – two shows Saturday night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion – was sold out weeks ago.

In the midst of all this fanfare, there is a danger that the person in the center of all this attention – namely Miss Midler – would begin listening too much to the applause of her audience rather than her own sense of standards; a danger that she would tend to coast on what she has seen work rather than dig deeper into her talent, and imagination.

Happily, she showed Saturday that she is still a vital, exciting, enormously entertaining performer: one who has been able to accept the acclaim without letting it make her relax her own ambition and drive.

Miss Midler deals in emotion to the point of exaggeration. She isolates a feeling – sometimes it is the exuberance of “Chattanooga Choo Choo” or the teen-age need of “Leader of the Pack” or the underdog sentimentally of “Do You Want To Dance” – and then buries herself in it, inviting her audience to come along.

Though the obvious effect of her act is entertainment, one of the underlying goals, particularly in this age of alienation and sophistication, is to demonstrate that it is “safe” or acceptable to show emotion, to enjoy yourself.

Arriving on stage on a regal, hand-carried throne, Miss Midler, who used three costume changes, was backed by a four-piece rhythm section (led by arranger-pianist Barry Manilow) and a female vocal trio.

As before, her music and funny, effective remarks were punctuated by a continuous display of energy: arms twirling, body twisting, eyebrows arching and plenty of smiles. Most of the material was taken from her Atlantic album. She received a rousing well-deserved standing ovation.

Miss Midler, simply and surreal, is a delight and there isn’t a hall in Los Angeles big enough to hold all those who would benefit from seeing her perform. But hopefully she’ll resist the basketball arenas and stick with more intimate facilities. She’s too personal, too intimate, too vulnerable an artist to fall victim to the impersonal atmosphere of the larger rooms.

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