BetteBack March 10, 1973: Bette Midler Show Blends Old, New

Pittsburgh Post Gazette
March 10, 1973

 Instagram: @bettebae


One of the most heterogeneous crowds ever to attend a rock show in Pittsburgh turned out last night at the Syria Mosque and watched Bette Midler perform highly diverse material, all woven into a patchwork of pizzazz.

Hard as an anvil (“A Karen Carpenter I am not.” quoth she) and with a face only Phyllis Diller could love, Bette sang tunes from the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s in a range of styles that touched on all musical idioms.

She sang torch songs (“they’re my favorite”), blues (“I’m gonna sing you the grossest blues tunes I know”), greaser rock tunes, rock numbers from the 60s and contemporary pop ballads, including standout tune, “Superstar,” from her current album.

Bette made the whole thing look effortless. In fact, she was so comfortable on stage that her in-between-songs patter got a little too loose and her hammering got a bit out of hand. If there was a lampshade within reach, she would have been wearing it – upside-down, no less.

But the crowd loved everything she did and laughed uproariously at her jokes, many of which were tinged with blue.

She also drew many standing ovations throughout the performance and let the happiness wash over her, the band and her backup singers, a trio called “The Harlettes.”

And after the applause died down, she went into reprise after reprise to try and stir up some more. No doubt about it, this girl loves what she’s doing and knows how to get what she wants from a crowd.

Also scoring heavily with the crowd were Bette’s jokes about playing Pittsburgh. “Friday night in PITTSBURGH! And here I am at the Syria Mosque-owitz!”

She subsequently admitted that the town isn’t as bad as she imagined but still was one of the many “tacky cities” she’s been playing on her current tour.

A satirical look at AM radio, poking fun at the redundancy of material aired in that medium, also clicked, as did her rendition of such tunes as “Do You Wanna Dance?” (her current single hit) “Lullaby of Broadway.” “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” and, particularly, “Am I Blue?

The nearly packed house was comprised of young, old, black, white, freaks and conservatives – plus a contingent from the Pittsburgh gay community, males and females. In fact, when Bette was singing “Am I Blue?” when she came to the line, “One I was Gay,” there was scattered applause throughout the house.

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