BetteBack November 19, 1973: Bette Midler: A Mellowed Outrage

The Boston Globe November 19, 1973 57549_0 One attends a Bette Midler concert partly to be seen. So when this most overground of underground pop stars arrived in Boston for a sold-out two night stand on Wednesday, many in attendance were carefully eyeing each other. As, such a setting for the happily tacky “Divine Miss M.” The glitter of the Music Hall is a perfect backdrop of tinsel for the frizzy-haired singer who works so hard at projecting the image of a silver-lame schlepper. Ms. Midler is perfectly willing to let her audience in on the act, and they love her for it. The lobby was filled with fur, dyed hair, six-inch heels and flowers, not to mention an occasional painted face. To be sure, though, the outrageousness seems to have mellowed since her last visit to Boston. After all, it’s been four years since she played the gay baths of New York, and her audience is much broader now. Besides, how many stylish weirdos can one town have? Half an hour late, she pours herself on stage in a feather boa, red platform shows, chintzy green dress and two stripper fans. “You’re cheap, cheap, cheap!” she whines, and the crowd roars its agreement. “You’re Revere Beach trash!” In two hour-long sets there are 18 songs, including a complete run-through of her first album (the second will be out any day now). It is all pure Miss M, hopping from one decade to the next. There is blues, jazz, boogie-woogie. A torch song. And don’t forget “low rent retro rock ‘n’ roll.” The first half is slow, but the second picks up. The three singing Harlettes strut in front of the five piece band. The star careens across the stage, elbows flapping. Her constant patter between songs runs along the lines of a joke about Linda Lovelace and Richard Nixon. In the end she seems not quite as enthusiastic as the last time, but in better control of her remarkable voice. Perhaps the audience has let her down. “Oh, you finally woke up?” she asks before the encore. It is well-planned and well-executed “trash with flash.” But it is also hard work. “We don’t miss a trick,” ahs says. And she doesn’t.
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