BootLeg Betty

BetteBack December 21, 1996: There Are Singers. There Are Performers. Then There’s Bette Midler

Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph
December 21, 1996

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There are those who sing and those who perform. And there are those, like Bette Midler, who do both so consummately, you’d be hard-pressed to force them into one category.

Midler has long been known for her voice and her acting (“The Rose,””Beaches”), but her rip-roaring romp of a concert at Denver’s McNichols Arena Thursday night reminded the audience of what made her a star in the first place. She puts on a stage show with the kind of gusto that only true entertainers can give.

The two-hour concert, “Experience the Divine,” followed the same formula as her many concerts, complete with bawdy characters, elaborate sets, goofy costumes and a range of songs, from ballads to foot-tapping pop. But her voice has matured over time, and
was engagingly rich in this performance.

Starting sweetly with “You Gotta’ Have Friends,” she reeled the audience in slowly as she pranced around, looking svelte in black and gold lame.

She may be 51, but the diva of stage, screen and song held more than her own with her young back-up singers and lithe showgirl dancers.

She switched seamlessly between singing and giving the audience her random observations of the world. Her commentary was riddled with jokes, some of them crude but not lewd.

She was pure energy even as she toned down to sing ballads from her first album, the award-winning “The Divine Miss M,” and even threw in “You Don’t Own Me,” a song from her hit movie “The First Wives Club.”

But it was “The Rose” that hooked her fans, who began to scream in recognition as the first notes came out of the pianO|^

Then came the kicker, Midler’s comedic burlesque musical where she becomes the bawdy, buxom “Sophie Tucker,” a persona showcased in* her 1980 concert film, “Divine Madness,” re-released this year.

This risque business concluded with partially nude showgirls in a hilarious musical rendition of “Going to the Chapel.”

Midler was completely irreverant in the form of “Dolores,” a wheekhair bound ham in a bright turquoise mermaid suit and bikini top. Spinning around in the chair, she sang such classics as “Greatest Love of All” and the Andrew SistersBoogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” and ended in a splash of sparkles and a wheelchair chorus line.

She reined the ride in when she appeared in a beaded black evening gown, transforming into the charming chanteuse that made her a mainstream star. Her rocking rendition of “Stay With Me Baby” brought down the house, and as she sang “Wind Beneath My Wings” she bent down and almost cuddled the audience with the lines “I would be nothing without you.”

She ended with an encore, a quiet audience participation, “Glory of Love,” after giving all she had.

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