December 18, 1999
Watch out Silicon Valley Bette Midler is here. With playful remarks of the very rich software tycoons buying up the front rows seats and making more money than all her movies had made . Bette Midler has the mouth that roars. And she’s always ready to devour anything and anybody in her path . A Bette Midler concert is like a night at a roadhouse sipping martinis while the roof is on fire. It’s hot, bawdy and you stumble toward the parking lot tipsy from the head rush. There’s nothing understated about the Divine Miss M, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. It helps when you have 12,000 enthusiastic fans pulling for you, as was the case at the San Jose Arena Saturday night, where Midler and a cast of seemingly thousands decamped on her Divine Miss Millennium Tour. The Divine Miss Millennium Tour will wind up on New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas. It should be illegal to have so much fun while working – the smile never left Midler’s face .
Rising from an Earth-shaped orb behind a star-studded diorama, Midler opened the nearly three-hour show with From A Distance, quickly reassuring the crowd there would be plenty of familiar material mixed in with her patented camp. Not that they needed reassuring; she could have sung jingles all night, and this crowd wouldn’t have budged. Midler brought a small village with her, including seven musicians, seven dancers and her three backup singers, the Harlettes. Midler also did a woozy turn in a dive-of-the-mind, The Pits, and a big, risque number celebrating bosoms and brassieres with every mammary euphemism known to humanity. Some of this double entendre-laced material, shall we say, sagged a bit. But Midler radiated so much charisma and had such fun glorying in and mocking her taste for tac (“We may be high-tech, but we’re still low-down”) it didn’t matter. She also could magically shift moods in a blink, from arch raunchiness (lots of jests at Bob Dole and Viagra) to glowing sincerity. The songs came fast and furiously — Do You Want to Dance, I’m Beautiful, You Make me Feel (Mighty Real), Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy — punctuated by Midler’s bawdy banter. One of the few lines we can print: “Unlike the San Jose Sharks, I still know how to score.” And score she did, delivering a piñata of a package with the best bits from a 30-year career. There was Sophie, the wise-cracking gossip; the snappy chanteuse from the Manhattan baths; and, of course, mermaid Delores Delago, who opened the second half with a campaign for president that included a love song to Ken Starfish. There was even a bit of serious lecturing, as Midler warned the crowd not to let San Jose become another Los Angeles with its rampant growth. In between the songs, she performed a mile-a-minute comedy revue, telling risqué jokes, tossing off more four-letter words than one hears at a Korn concert. And taking potshots at celebrities, including Cher, former presidential candidate and current Viagra spokesman Bob Dole (“Sometimes, once is plenty”) and Ricky Martin, many of whom joined her, in caricature form at least, for a rousing “We Are the World And there was music — some in snippets, some in a roof-raising roar. The Rose, Otto Titzling, In the latter vein, Midler sang Leonard Cohen‘s “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today” with keen feeling, and shaped a tender version of the sentimental “Sunrise, Sunset” from “Fiddler on the Roof.” (Midler was in the original Broadway cast.) even a blissfully bizarre tune called Marijuana, during which Midler feigned hallucinations as she danced with two “Doobie Brothers.” They, like most of the production values here, were more suited to Broadway than your typical concert: trapdoors, descending banners, a myriad of costume changes. The fiftysomething Midler also commented and joked, on occasion, about the challenges of being middle-aged in a youth-oriented culture. Strip away the glitter, though, and you’re left with one simple fact. Despite the strains of the altitude, (which she mentioned often,) Midler’s voice sounds stronger and clearer than ever.