New Orleans, LA
New Orleans Arena
November 21, 2004

Hurricane Bette
By Mark S

Photo: BaltoBoy Steve Weiner

Bette blew into the Big Easy’s New Orleans Arena last night with the intensity of a category 5 hurricane! It was an incredible evening; one that won’t be forgetten anytime soon.

The weekend started with meeting none other than the Divine Mister D and his family at a posh New Orleans restaurant. Mister D invited my wife and me to attend the concert with his family to celebrate his parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. We had a wonderful dinner; we shared our favorite Bette memories and discussed this leg of KMB in anticipation of the concert Sunday night.

We arrived at the New Orleans Arena (had great seats!!) and waited for the Divine One to make her entrance. As the loyal and the faithful filled up the arena I tried to size up the crowd. Was this crowd going to be really into it?? Or was this going to be another evening of chairs dressed like people??

Bette made her entrance on Seabiscuit and the audience went wild! As she made her way to the stage the audience was on their feet clapping, stomping and screaming. Bette ate it up! I was glad to see that the audience was ‘ON’ and that this was going to be a memorable performance. The concert didn’t vary from the songs and/or material from previous shows. The local jokes were hysterical and I thought the “Judge Judy” segment was funnier than I had remembered.

During “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” the majority of the floor section was on their feet singing and clapping along. Two women in the front row were doing the jitterbug in front of Bette and the girls. Bette loved it!

The second memorable moment came after ‘I’m Sorry.” Bette looked down at the front row and said, “Lady how long are you going to be on that cell phone?” The lady offered Bette her phone so Bette could say “Hello” to the person on the other end. Bette said, “You’ve got to be kidding! I’m in the middle of a show!”

“I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today” and “When A Man Loves A Women” were sung with such incredible emotion. I was amazed as I watched her pour her heart and soul into those songs. I glanced at those sitting around me and they were all mesmerized by the power and energy of those songs. I didn’t want the night to end.

Soph was on target and she gave the audience a good laugh. I was worried she was going to cut “Ain’t You Got A Vase” and the “Chihuahua” jokes. Luckily they were included in her repertoire as they were the last jokes in the segment.

Ol’ Seabiscuit arrived on cue during “Shiver Me Timbers.” What a visual that is; seeing Bette and Seabiscuit flying away after that incredible song. I suspect Seabiscuit enjoyed a little too much of the N’awlins cooking because he got stuck before he made it backstage. Bette was suspended pretty high above the arena floor when she coaxed Seabiscuit; “Come on just one more little turn. Don’t shame me in New Orleans.” She extended the chorus of “la-la’s” as a stagehand pulled her back onto the stage. When Bette was safe she gave the stagehand a bear hug as to say, “Thank you for saving my ass!” I thought; “lucky bastard!”

Act II took us swimming with Delores, visiting Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, seeing Bette up close and not “From A Distance”, riding on “The Wind Beneath My Wings”, and asking us “Do You Want To Dance.” Bette sat on the stage and asked the audience to sing “The Rose.” We flubbed a lyric or two (the expressions on her face were priceless) but we all got it right by the time the song was over. “Keep On Rockin’” was no where to be found. She ended the show wearing Mardi Gras beads and a red feather boa singing, “In The Cool Cool Cool Of The Evening.”

If I had to pick my favorite part of the entire evening I would have to say it was when Bette was telling us how much she loved New Orleans. I had read in an article that New Orleans was her favorite US city. I had hoped that it was true and not something her publicist made up. There was at least four times during the performance that Bette said how excited she was to be here. Bette said this date was the one they (she and the band) were most looking forward too on this leg of the tour. There was a moment in the concert that many of the front row folks rushed the stage to shake her hand. Bette stopped the show and graciously shook everyone’s hand as she mouthed “Thank You” to each of them. A few gave her bouquets of flowers which she accepted. Bette thanked us repeatedly for a wonderful evening and said she had the best time. As much as Bette loved us it doesn’t compare to the love we have for her.

New Orleans...No Place Like It
By Jennifer H.

Photo: BaltoBoy Steve Weiner

Holy lord she was soo much better in New Orleans than she was in Dallas! I'm so happy that I got to go again!! We were like 25 ft from the stage! My friend and I were about to die!! I have to say that she really kicked ass last night! Her energy was up and she was having a blast! There were some fun changes from Dallas to New Orleans.

Some could not be helped such as Seabuscit getting stuck mid air! That was great because she was suspended right above our heads! She added a few new jokes, and changed the
set list some! Then some of the little nit picky things were cleaned up and a few of them didn't happen. But some of them weren't that important!

And I have to say the cell phone crack was the funniest thing because it wasn't scripted! "No, I'm not taking to your friend! These people paid alot of money to see me!" If you want to know where I was sitting I was the only goof ball to break out a lighter during "From a Distance". Yep that was me! I burned the shit out of my finger though! it was kinda funny!

Anyway! I had a blast!! I got on some old people's nerves! They were sitting in front of me and I was just screaming and yelling! it was great! one time he turned around and glared at me! So, I tried not to scream while she was doing anything important! It was soo hard!

'Miss M' divine, and then some
Tart-tongued diva sings, zings at arena
The Times-Picayune
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
By Keith Spera
Music writer

Thirty years ago at the Fairmont Hotel's Blue Room and similarly intimate lounges, the irrepressible Bette Midler routinely worked over her audience. The larger venues she now inhabits are not as conducive to withering, one-on-one banter.

We should be thankful.

At New Orleans Arena on Sunday, Midler chastised a woman down front for using a cell phone but otherwise left the paying customers alone. Hell on high heels, she instead aimed barbs at President Bush, talk show host Rush Limbaugh and pop star Christina Aguilera, among others.

On a glittering stage re-creating the classic Coney Island amusement park and boardwalk, Midler presided over equal parts concert, comedy routine and Broadway theater of the bizarre. In the show's opening segment, her Harlettes, a troupe of three female dancer-singers, and 13 musicians punched up the "Kiss My Brass" of her tour's title, concluding with a spunky "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy."

But her sassy commentary was at least as much fun. Of Limbaugh's OxyContin troubles, she said, "Not only is he a moron, but he's an Oxy-moron." She lampooned Aguilera's barely there stage attire, other celebrities' doomed marriages and, in a parody of "The Brady Bunch," pop princess Britney Spears' new extended family.

Not sparing herself, she riffed on advancing age, even though her energized performance showed no sign of it. In an extended video skit between costume changes, Midler squared off against the CBS "eye" logo in Judge Judy's TV courtroom, with actor Gary Coleman as a bailiff. The eye successfully sued Midler for bad-mouthing her own TV show; in fine diva fashion, Midler socked him.

She did her New Orleans homework, too. She was honored, she said, to perform "in the same arena where the Hornets lose -- I mean, play." Saints owner Tom Benson was not in attendance because "he's going door to door collecting for the new stadium." She saluted her "favorite business family in America": the proprietors of the Canal Street brothel.

But she also set aside the ridiculous and/or rude for the poignant. She lofted a lovely piano and voice retelling of Hoagy Carmichael's "Skylark." Via video, she engaged Mr. Rogers, the late champion of childhood and civility, in a sweet-natured duet. She revisited Rosemary Clooney's "Hey There" and "Tenderly" beneath glamorous black-and-white photos of Clooney, demonstrating her easy way with the classic American songbook.

Midler might rethink other decisions. Her "When A Man Loves A Woman" added little to the original. "God Is Watching Us" was maudlin. Gently flapping her arms at the conclusion of "Wind Beneath My Wings" was overkill, much like Celine Dion mimicking the big-screen pose on the prow of the Titanic for "My Heart Will Go On."

Also, the largest of three video screens mostly scrolled prerecorded segments but should have carried live close-ups of Midler's act. Her animated expressions were not visible from most seats.

In a rare technical glitch, a flying carousel horse with Midler astride stalled 20 feet above the stage as she exited to end the first set. "Come on, Nellie!" she said, to no avail. Finally, a stage hand guided the prop, and star, down to the safety of the stage. Midler rewarded her rescuer with a bear hug.

Mostly she orchestrated a smartly paced, highly entertaining showcase. Recalling her Dolores DeLago skits of old, she and the Harlettes spent 20 minutes in mermaid costumes, cavorting in electric wheelchairs and hopping on their "tails" to Broadway standards refitted with nautical lyrics. "All That Jazz," for example, became "All That Shad."

Channeling the bawdy Borscht belt comedienne Sophie Tucker, she unleashed a barrage of salty jokes, some as well-trod as her character. A Chihuahua, pantyhose and rose bouquets factored in punch lines that can't be repeated in a family newspaper.

In the finale, she coaxed a reluctant audience to sing the first verse of "The Rose," then took over, ratcheting up the emotion and wringing all the ache from her signature song. She played out "The Rose" masterfully, so much so that a final encore was anticlimactic.

But by then, the Divine Miss M had already given plenty.