A Divine Understanding
by Nicole K. (Thanks Nicole!)
I went to see her opening concert in Sydney on the 13th of April.
I had heard only 3 of her songs prior to her concert (From a Distance
the first song I remember hearing on radio, and The Rose I didn’t
know was hers! but had of course heard it before) so I didn't really
know what to
My father was always saying how funny she was in concert, and I
remember thinking, “Wasn't she more of a singer? Why would
a singer want to
be telling jokes?” But I was interested, and I like to be
educated in areas where I know only a little bit about. So off we
went to the concert on the 13th.
The first thing I remember about walking around the arena was that
it was huge!! The second thing was that the crowd was older, being
21 - I was probably one of the youngest there, but the crowd, my
god had so much energy. We were walking around to our door, and
I was just excited from the buzz of the other people - now knowing
that they had some idea of what the
hell was going to come soon after!!
So it soon began, we took our places and watched the capacity crowd
flow in and take their seats. You are sitting there thinking, how
can one person fill out a 20,000-seat stadium night after night
after night. I can't even start to describe what a crowd of 20,000
people looked like. Amazing, absolutely amazing.
The music starts, no one knows where to look, is she coming from
behind the curtain, from the side of the stage?! No, no, this is
Bette and nothing short of a grand entrance will suffice!! So she
comes down in this carousel horse and everything and everyone is
alive. Bette has
arrived. And damn she looks good. I soon realised that she doesn’t
just perform… she performs for her audience. She knows her
audience; she knows how to time a joke to perfection, the punch
line spot on. There will always be the classic "Soph"
jokes that have you turning to the person next to you, and you are
both pissing yourself laughing. But, what I felt coming away from
both concerts is that she makes you feel special - that the show
just created personally for your city, for you. Your local ironies,
your national celebrities in the headlines... "I'm sorry this
is not dancing with the fucking stars!!" (Nb: Dancing with
the Stars had just been this huge hit show in Aus, and everyone
was still talking about it.). She knows what’s going on, and
cares enough to make sure we are the centre of her world and have
her undivided attention for that period of time. To do the local
research and to take the time to make it ours, not having the same
jokes that worked in the States or even for the other shows throughout
the Aus tour.
So now I'm starting to understand why this 5'1, 60 yr old woman
(who looks 40 might I add) can fill out sold out venues across the
country night after night. Her voice is stronger. I'm amazed that
she isn’t credited more for her voice. "I Think It's
Gonna Rain Today" just put me into this spell, the kind that
you just sit back, get lost in the song and are taken to another
place. "When A Man Loves A Woman" was just so powerful.
You really felt her sing it, and you felt every emotion in every
word that she is belting out. It left you breathless.
Delores went a bit over my head, since I didn't know the story behind
the character (until now) but I found it amusing with her bouncing
around the stage with a fish tail and an electric wheelchair. The
best bit about it was what she did with those balls!! Haha that’s
and she killed it. I would never have thought she would have the
co-ordination and the skills for it (try it, its not easy!), it
just shows her seemingly limitless range in talent. So here I am
sitting in front of this woman who has just captivated me, I can't
take my eyes off her and it
was only 2 hours earlier in which I knew nothing about her (except
a loose knowledge of a couple of songs).
It was at the end of the show where she did the ballads, I was a
little disappointed when the whole audience didn't sing it with
her (bar the people that were directly in front and on the sides).
Maybe it was the older crowd though? I'm not too sure. Having said
that though, she showed no signs of disappointment.
At one point a member of the audience passed her flowers, and she
thanked him.. but seconds later he came running back with the card
that he forgot... in true impromptu wit Midler piped up "You
can read and write as well?! Fantastic that must be very exciting
for you!!" So the next thing you know, having let her guard
down a little, some girls were coming to the stage pen and paper
in hand and the crowd took the opportunity to give her a very
emotional standing ovation while she signed a couple of autographs,
which she obviously felt as she said " Sit down people, sit
down.. Come on girls, get a grip!!”
Heading to the second show, I had more of an understanding of who
this person labelled the "Diva of Diva's" was... she has
certainly earned that title. The May 1st show was her last in Australia,
she had performed the night before as well so I thought maybe (being
at 60) she might have felt tired and the show wouldn’t be
as energetic. Also that and maybe she was
just doing the same shows with fatigue and repetition setting in.
But of course we were given more than we deserved and expected.
I think, being the last show the crowd was a more into it as well
and so she lifted from it. All was as fantastic as usual, I had
a little more of an idea of who this Delores character was by now
(!) so I was more into that bit of the show this time round.
When the time came to sing "The Rose" she was already
emotional, and I'm pretty sure there were early signs of tears.
Anyways, she of course asked the audience to sing, and we started
with the first line, "some say love, it is a river". As
soon as she heard “river” she stopped
singing and started laughing at the way we pronounced it as "riva".
The audience was laughing, although still kind of carried on with
the next line. But halfway through the next line, she couldn’t
help herself and stopped again, laughing to herself and shaking
her head. Repeating "river" with an impersonation of the
Aussie accent and the way in which we had just sang it.
It had her laughing at us, with us and to herself again.
When she sang the encore of "Tenterfield Saddler" the
crowd was signing very loudly (finally! unlike the first show) and
she started to cry at the beginning. Possibly because its the emotional
last show and it was all over. She was saying she was going to struggle
through it... asking for the audience's help, and you could hear
that she couldn’t hit the notes through
the song because she was crying, which was just fantastic. Wiping
away the tears during the encore song, then gathering it up and
finishing it off. So awesome to see her moved.
Then the curtain came up, and her whole band had put on these huge
costumes on of all the famous Aussie animals. I don't think she
knew it was going to happen as she was laughing and crying again.
So it was a fantastic ending to a journey lasting over 2 hours.
Something I am sure that will stay in my mind forever.
I have enough sense in me to know that was I had just seen was special.
That there will never be a tour like it again, and never an entertainer
quite like it again.
Love, Nicole K