New York, NY
Radio City Music Hall
October 14, 2004

New York Daily News
She's Bette-r than ever
Friday, October 15th, 2004

Photo: BaltoBoy Steve Weiner

Summer may be over, but there's still plenty of time for camp.

That message was delivered loud and clear last night as Bette Midler blew through Radio City Music Hall accompanied by a coterie of dancing mermaids, zoot-suited horn players and enough cleavage jokes to stoke a year's worth of Dean Martin roasts.

Swinging through the metropolitan area for the second time on her oft-extended "Kiss My Brass" tour, Midler showed none of the wear one might expect from a performer who's spent most of the past year on the road. In fact, the roadwork has probably sharpened her up even more - particularly the comic timing that's such a central part of the two-hour show.

The yuks flew fast and furious, particularly during her trademark channeling of the ghost of Sophie Tucker - who mastered the art of working blue before Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor were born. Midler threw herself headlong into the set's raunchiest material, but, typically, seemed equally at home singing "I Like to Be Told," a duet of sorts with the late Fred (Mister) Rogers.

Mood swings were the order of the night, with Midler changing personae as readily as she did costumes - donning sailor-girl threads for a sassy set of early hits such as "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and segueing readily into a Rosemary Clooney tribute (highlighted by "Tenderly") that saw her decked out in perfectly demure cabaret threads.

Although she repeated a fair bit of shtick - notably petulant snipes at Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera - Midler's punchlines were by and large on target, connecting on such topics as Billy Joel's driving skills and Dubya's debate wardrobe malfunctions.

More importantly, Bette hit paydirt with her voice, an instrument surprisingly undimmed by the passage of time, as evidenced by versions of "Skylark" and "Chapel of Love." While she spent a bit too much time delving into the intricacies of her Delores Del Lago character, the digressions into that fictional second-tier Broadway Baby go a long way toward illuminating Midler's character.

Delores, like Bette, is happy to go the extra mile to entertain, but self-aware enough to stop before she becomes a total caricature. That's a tough line to walk, but even as her peers opt for retirement, Midler manages to tiptoe along it with a gymnast's agility.

Here's to the harlot with a heart of gold and the grace of a ballerina.

by The Divine Debbie

Photo: BaltoBoy Steve Weiner

I made the trek from California to New York to see Bette on Thursday and Saturday nights and it was well worth the trip. A great place to see her in her home town and a smaller venue.

On Thursday afternoon I took the RCMH back stage tour which I highly recommend. It included watching the Rockettes rehearse and getting to meet a Rockette. The have a wall of etched glass pictures including one of Bette during her 30 night sold out run there.

Bette was fabulous on Thursday night, she sounded and looked great. The show was tight running a little over two hours, but this was the second night in a row for them to perform instead of having the usual night off between shows. The Rose video and Keep On A Rockin were cut and there wasn't an encore. With or without those numbers Bette gives her all and more when she stands up on the stage and performs. She has a great band and group of girls. She even meets her goal of singing louder than the brass section. She received standing ovations for When A Man Loves A Woman, Wind Beneath My Wings and of course The Rose. When she came back out to sing The Rose she asked the audience to sing along, we were a pretty weak bunch and even with her encouragement didn't get much louder.

Most of the people sitting around me had never seen Bette live. They all seemed to enjoy the show. A few of the women were practically rolling on the floor during the Soph jokes. The "gentleman" behind me threatened to boo her if she made any political comments he didn't approve of. Thankfully he kept his mouth shut. He did do a fair amount of whining at the intermission about the show being too political?!! The big discussion at the intermission was her age - the general consensus was 40-45!!

The meet and greet group that left out the stage door was pretty extensive including Glenn Close and her daughter, Josh Grobin and Ahmet Ertegan. It was well after 11:30pm before Bette came out and left immediately.

KMB II Review:
October 14, 2004


It's fascinating to compare the careers of Bette Midler and Barbra Streisand, since they might well have been expected to follow similar paths but most certainly did not. Both performers began to make a name for themselves in New York in the '60s: Streisand sang mostly for gay men in small clubs in Greenwich Village, Midler sang specifically for gay men in, shall we say, other venues. Both appeared on Broadway: Streisand was featured in I Can Get It For You Wholesale and starred in Funny Girl, Midler played Tzeitel during the marathon run of Fiddler on the Roof. Both had succcess in recordings and films: Midler's major, Streisand's phenomenal. Ah, but there the similarities end. Though Streisand virtually ceased performing before live audiences as soon as she became a film star, Midler has continued to appear regularly in concert venues. And though Streisand
came across as cool, remote, and humorless when she finally did deign to return to live concerts (at ridiculously inflated ticket prices), Midler's shows have always been warm, wacky love-fests. Her current show at Radio City Music Hall, Bette Midler: Kiss My Brass, fits that description perfectly.

According to some reports, this engagement has not been selling well, probably due mostly to the fact that Midler did the same show in cavernous Madison Square Garden earlier this year. But the Music Hall looked pretty full last night, and it can be said with confidence that every paying customer got much more than his or her money's worth. With the background of a bright, colorful set meant to represent Coney Island at the end of the 19th century, Bette and her Harlettes -- and her terrific band -- offered the kind of entertainment that must be seen to be believed.

Bette and company opened with the show's title song, and then the quips began -- fast, furious, and irreverent. (For example: "My story has more twists and turns than Billy Joel on a country road.") In a generous two-hour program, the star seemed to leave none of her hits unsung; she did an equally amazing job with the up-tempo rousers ("Stuff Like That There," "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy), the thrillingly belted show-stoppers ("When a Man
Loves a Woman"), and the ballads ("Skylark," "From a Distance," "Wind Beneath My Wings.") The evening also encompassed touching tributes to Mister Rogers and Rosemary Clooney. (If you don't already own Midler's album of covers of that great singer's greatest hits, get it!)

Kiss My Brass contains a number of side-splitting "Soph" jokes, based on the style of Sophie Tucker but far more blue than anything that would ever have come out of that legend's mouth on stage. There's also a dash of political humor in the proceedings, and I'm sure I don't have to tell you who the targets are. But, for many in the audience, the highlight of the show was the lengthy yet consistently hilarious sequence that opened the second half:
Charting the ascension to Broadway stardom of Delores De Lago, Midler's zany mermaid character, it included performances of more than a dozen musical theater standards -- from "Everything's Coming Up Roses" to "You'll Never Walk Alone" to "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" -- with hysterically funny parody lyrics.

The finale, a group sing-a-long to "The Rose," ended the evening on a sweet, heartfelt note. Only a performer as brilliantly versatile as Bette Midler could make such a choice seem exactly right -- moving rather than cloying, sincere rather than manipulative. Kiss My Brass continues at Radio City Music Hall through Sunday, and it's not to be missed.