Grand Forks, ND
The Alerus Center
December 10, 2004

CONCERT REVIEW: Bette's brassy
Midler brings funny and bawdy show to Grand Forks
By Paulette Tobin
Herald Staff Write

Photo: Jackie Lorentz

Waving and smiling, Bette Midler flew onto the stage of the Alerus Center on Friday night on the back of a giant carousel horse, then launched into the theme song of her "Kiss My Brass" tour, proving that not all the brass in the show was in the horn section.

"I'm not retiring, and you can't make me," she told the audience more than once. We believe you, Miss M, and, by the way, "retiring" is the last word we'd ever use to describe you.

Surrounded by amusement park lights and backed by a terrific band, Midler and her fabulous Harlettes back-up singers and dancers mixed it up, from showstoppers to ballads. They sang fan favorites from "Skylark" to "Friends" to "When a Man Loves a Woman" and "Tenderly" from her new Rosemary Clooney songbook.

Between songs, Bette was funny and bawdy. Midler's early-in-the-show remark about North Dakotans and their "Fargo" accents pretty much bombed, but she quickly recovered with a joke about the local landscape.

"I haven't seen anything so flat since I worked with the Olsen twins," she said.

Talk about brass: Midler, who turned 59 last week, sang and danced one of her classic hits next to a split screen of herself doing the same song 35 years ago. When she finished, she was panting a bit.

"See, this is what it sounds like when you do your own singing," she quipped.

No one - including President Bush, Billy Joel or Rush Limbaugh - escaped her pointed wit. Nor were the Christinas and Britneys of the world safe. To be a woman performer today, Midler noted, "You have to dress like a 'ho.'"

It's a trend for which she takes full credit, she said, but do any of today's trashy singers with big - let's say bosoms - ever bother to thank her?

Midler's show was the diva at her best. In the world of entertainment, there's just no one like her. Having said that, there were problems with the show. The Alerus wasn't built for acoustics, and sometimes the quality of the music sounded better out at the concession stand than in the arena. A Judge Judy segment early in the show didn't really work, although it did provide a perfect segue into the Brenda Lee classic, "I'm Sorry."

Midler does get props for her video show about famous couples that are couples no longer. Over a photo of Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie, she said: "Exchanging vials of blood just doesn't mean what it used to."

Attendance figures were not released Friday night. Earlier in the week, estimates were between 8,000 to 9,000 tickets sold.