Richmond, VA
The Richmond Coliseum
October 21, 2004

by The Divinely Wonderous Wanda

Photo: BaltoBoy Steve Weiner

AHHH Richmond, what can I say...a lot! The first thing that comes to mind is that this was the 4th time of seeing our Divine Miss. M and the first time I have seen her in my own state! And she was Divine! I have an all new respect for Bette. She obviously was not well...she coughed a few times, and looked tired. She had already said in an interview that she was still recovering from a back injury that had occurred before Baltimore. Her foot was taped up from another injury! I think that most performers would have canceled or postponed a concert for just one of those reasons. However, Bette was as bright, as bawdy and as bodacious as ever!

Before I go on (and on) about Bette. I must say that the band was superb. They were on the money, making it look so easy (and it isn't) and fun. Marvelous! The Harlettes were, well STAGGERING. On the money. I love to see their adding the campiness that they do--like the one chewing gum--too funny! And a wonderful save during Delores--good job. Read on about that one.

After flying in on Seabiscuit and finishing her first number, someone came in not so fashionably late she looked at them and said, "Why the hell are you late? I'm trying to put on a show here!!!" I almost fell out of my seat. Even though when we first heard that Skylark was on the lineup, we were wishing that she had chosen something else. We gained a new appreciation of it in DC, but it was absolutely gorgeous in Richmond.

I can never get enough of Soph. There was a couple sitting next to me, and it was obvious that the wife had to drag him there. It is always such a bore to have someone at a MIDLER concert just sitting there. He did enjoy Soph. I think he got a little bewildered at me standing up every other song screaming though. Hey, I had to show him how a true Bettehead acts, didn't I?

Delores was in rare form. But she got her balls twisted. She was fighting them as she said "Ah, Shit!" She was able to untwist them and do a little routine before the naughty things twisted up again. "Fuck 'em" she said as she threw them aside. What a save they did when her hat rolled off of her head during "All That Shad!" As it rolled off, a Harlette picked it up and put it right back on her head. And when she came down on that fish hook for "Phantom Of The Opera," we were looking for the nearest exit with a bathroom.

She commented on having to have sandbags in the bathroom of her hotel. Richmond took a terrible beating from the hurricanes. One of the local City councilman was detained and she said "I was hoping Sa'ad El-Amin could come tonight, but he told me he was locked into other plans. The good news is that he and Martha Stewart are getting along faaaabulously." She also told Virginia that we had a beautiful state, "Stop fucking it up with all those parking garages!"

But the most touching moment came when she sang what she called her favorite song to sing, "Wind Beneath My Wings." It was the fourth time that I had heard her sing it in concert, but it was the most beautiful. I'm not sure exactly what happened. I know that the crowd was a really good one, real responsive. She was almost finished with the song and she stopped! She went toward the stage right door and turned to look at the audience. I looked up at the big screen to see her eyes red and tears streaming down her face. She disappeared behind the door, and then came back out to finish the song. Well, she was touched, and I was done for!

When she finished she bantered some and said that it was her first time there--but not her last. "Ya'll have been great. I had a great time," and she left. The audience started yelling "BETTE BETTE, BETTE" and stomping their feet. She came back out and said she didn't have anything else prepared. But the audience was relentless. Finally she said "Well, we were working on another song from the songbook, but I ain't making any promises on how good it will be..." And they went into "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening."

The evening was raucous, bawdy, beautiful, and even moving. She had injuries (2 of them) and not feeling good, but she did not let that stop her. My hat's off for her the fabulous band, and the staggering Harlettes. To put it as simply as possible--the evening was truly Divine.

The Divine Miss M
Midler flaunts her feisty personality with her fabulous music
Friday, October 22, 2004

Photo: BaltoBoy Steve Weiner

There are singers, and then there is Bette Midler. She’s that evaporating breed of entertainer, the rare performer capable not only of blowing the roof off a venue with a hefty set of pipes, but one who cracks smart jokes at whiplash speed, hoofs alongside her dancers and makes a crowd feel as if she still cares - even after 30-plus years in the biz.

Last night’s near-capacity Coliseum audience continually lavished its own love on Midler, even providing a surprisingly high volume of agreeable whoops and hollers at her many hilarious President Bush barbs.

Midler also went out of her way - as she’s done all tour - to localize her comments. That meant that aside from shoutouts to Windsor Farms and Oregon Hill ("Show me your mullets!") came a well-placed reference to the recent flooding in Shockoe Bottom.

“We’re staying downtown and my hotel room is still damp,” Midler quipped. “It’s the first time I’ve seen sandbags in my bathroom!”

And then, “I was hoping Sa’ad El-Amin could come tonight,” Midler said of the incarcerated former city councilman, “but he told me he was locked into other plans. The good news is that he and Martha Stewart are getting along faaaabulously.”

Just because Midler is sharper and funnier than most professional stand-up comedians didn’t mean she shirked her primary responsibility onstage - singing. A zippy five-piece horn section kick-started the show with “Kiss My Brass” - also the name of her tour, now on its second mega-successful leg - and “Big Noise From Winnetka.”

Watching Midler perform was as exhilarating as it was exhausting. The woman never stopped for air as she frantically paced from one side of the stage to the other, like Joe Torre looking for the remains of the Yankees season.

Her mop of blond, Shirley Temple curls sprung on her shoulders as she and her three fantastic backup singers, those saucy Harlettes, bopped through “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” across a stage decorated to replicate early Coney Island.

Most impressive about Midler was her ability to segue from ribald jokes about Viagra and the White House to soulful ballads such as Hoagy Carmichael’s “Skylark” or Rosemary Clooney’s “Hey There.”

By scrunching her eyes shut and emitting deep breaths between well-phrased lyrics, Midler suggested she was very much in the moment, not mentally planning her upcoming week off, as many stars on tour do.

Even later ballads “From a Distance” and “Wind Beneath My Wings,” such soggy Hallmark pap on record, were injected with new beauty under Midler’s live command.

As any longtime Midler fan knows, the highlights of her act come with two beloved characters - Sophie Tucker, that muumuu-wearing, dirty-joke-spewing yenta, and Delores DeLago “The Toast of Chicago,” otherwise known as the wacky mermaid in a motorized wheelchair.

Both made ample appearances last night - a bit too long in the case of DeLago and her punny Broadway medley and fish jokes - but who but the iciest of heart couldn’t hoot at the sight of Midler flopping and dancing around in a mermaid tail?

It’s more than merely humorous that Midler began the 2-hour show by proclaiming “I’m fabulous! Don’t I look it?” because she does. Look fabulous, that is. She’ll turn 59 in December, and despite injuring her back during a show a couple of weeks ago and wearing tape around the arch of her left foot last night, Midler is a lean bundle of feistiness and energy.

Thank the entertainment gods that Midler says she’s not retiring anytime soon. The world could use some more of her candid sass.

An Equal Opportinity Review
by The Divine Miss Dana

Photo: BaltoBoy Steve Weiner

First of all, I have to say that I am the one that bashed the Baltimore show, I don’t think, for whatever reason, Bette was not doing her best work and the audience was not fully showing its appreciation to our Miss M’s efforts. Being the equal opportunity reviewer that I am, I have to say that I absolutely adored the Richmond show. Richmond is one of the best performances that I have seen so far. Bette was top notch throughout the show and as the audience gave multiple standing ovations, she obliged us with an encore and a full on, ball busting, energized performance.

Bette started out the evening with her Big Noise of Winnetka and her ride down on Seabiscut. Although, this will be my fourth time seeing the show, Bette brought tears to my eyes when she sang When A Man Loves A Woman; her performance was amazing. I notice when she sings When A Man Loves A Woman in particular, her legs start to shake and she literally vibrates with power by the end of the song. I believe that Bette sang the song as well as she did during her Rose days and that is no easy task to accomplish since When A Man Loves A Woman is such an emotional ballad. I also noticed that throughout the show, not only were her Harlettes reacting to what she is saying and doing, her band members are doing the same. During the Judge Judy/I’m Sorry segment, when Bette screams, “Stop!” the band literally jumps back to her outburst. I thought that was a nice touch and I could tell that Bette, the Harlettes, and her band members are not only doing a concert but a stage show where the everyone is part of the larger picture of entertainment.

Throughout the show, I also saw touches of Bette from her early bawdy, years. In the middle of the first segment, people came in late and tried quietly to sit down. Bette, though, true to form, stopped the song, and told the late audience members, “Why the hell are you late? I’m TRYING to put on a show here!!!” The rest of the audience then went to uproarious laughter and cheer. I’m glad I wasn’t one of those who were late!! I wouldn’t want the wrath of Miss M upon me!! Also, towards the end of the show, the audience were calling out to Bette and asking questions. Bette at one point, before her encore said, “What, Dear?” to a question and the audience member yelled out to sing, “Love T.K.O” Bette laughed and said, “I can’t remember the words to THAT song!? I’m lucky if I can remember the words to the song I’m going to sing now!” The audience then gave her another standing ovation, in which she gave a wonderful rendition of “Come On to My House”.

Needless to say, the show was fabulous, Bette was in great shape and her whole show and members were top notch. I know that everyone has their good days and their bad days and Bette is no exception to the rule. The audience was totally awesome and the fact that they gave her four standing ovations proved the fact that she is one of the best entertainers of our time. Although Baltimore is not what I expected, Bette and the KMB crew gave a fantastic performance at Richmond and gave the audience a great show.