BootLeg Betty

BetteBack October 9, 1973: Midler is one of the most powerful singers around

Houston Daily Cougar
October 9, 1973

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“ All the freaks in one place, Bette Midler nodded approvingly at the crowd gathered for her concert Sunday night in Hofheinz Pavilion.

Every Looney Tune in Houston must be here. With no opening act threatening to steal her thunder on the stage, Midler still had to contend with the scene-stealing of the very audience that assembled to pay her homage. The daintily embroidered blue jean jackets, the rhinestones, the glitter and the bare midriff dresses (on men) all stood ready to challenge the Star lierself for attention. The more flamboyant and outrageous members of the audience received a warm round of applause as they made their way to their seats before the lights went down for the Divine Miss M, as she prefers to be called.

It was that kind of night.

But once the show was on, no one had to ask to whom it belonged. Midler easily commands the stage. Part stand-up comedienne, part vaudevillian trouper and part singer, she moves fast, a tiny bundle of hypertense energy, belting out songs like ” Friends,” “Delta Dawn” and a delightful medley of “50’s”  hits.

With her rouge, her garishly red fingernails and a wardrobe mixing shades of red sequins and purple roses, all the colors mothers used to warn their little red-haired girls against wearing she comes on brassy. Her husky, sometimes breathy, vocals erupt between songs into coyly foulmouthed monologues.

Alright,  she announced before a well-integrated medley (if two songs can be called a medley) of “Do You Love Me” and her sleazy version of “Do You Wanna Dance”

“This is the official highlight of our act This is where we shake our tits for all they’re worth”

But when she’s not camping it up, laying out her boogie woogie doowah spiel, Midler is one of the most powerful singers around, in a class with Laura Nyro, Aretha Franklin and Barbra Streisand.

Perched on a cushioned stool and backed by Barry Manilow’s laid-back piano, she sings “Am I Blue” in an emotion-fraught, painwracked voice that wrings every last drop of feeling from an already powerful song. She is similarly devastating with John Pnne’s “Hello in There” and Leon Russell-Bonnie Bramlett’s “Superstar” although she couldn’t resist an introductory swipe at Karen Carpenter on the latter.

Maybe, as she becomes more accustomed to her superstardom, Midler will feel less of a need to tender her talent with her well known, but sometimes strained, flamboyancy and devote more time to really singing.

I hope so.

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