Review: Divine Miss M wows audience with electrifying show
San Antonio Express-New
Photo: BaltoBoy Steve Weiner
From gay bathhouse diva to queen of the world, that's
the story of Bette Midler's fabulous career.
Well, at least that's how the Divine Miss M tells it.
"I'm not certain I could run the world, but I know I couldn't
(bleep) it up any worse," Midler told an adoring audience of
nearly 9,500 people at her extravagant "Kiss My Brass"
tour stop at SBC Center on Sunday.
That's a remarkable number compared to recent concerts here by
Norah Jones, Avril Lavigne and Velvet Revolver, which drew about
5,000 people each.
Like Cher, Midler attracted a large number of gay fans, and, at
one point, she encouraged the lesbian contingent from Seguin to
"Show us your mullets!"
Unlike Cher, Midler can make a costume change in a flash, disdains
disco and, at 58 years old (she turns 59 on Dec. 1), can keep up
with pogo dancing skater punk juggernaut Lavigne — dressed
in a mermaid suit, no less. And boy can she talk.
But she's more than just a sassy mouth and flashy duds. It goes
beyond the powerful and seductive voice, which is comfortable with
retro '40s swing, boogie-woogie or full-bore rock.
Midler is perhaps the last practitioner of the dramatic, nervous,
compelling onstage delivery that made Judy Garland such a mesmerizing
Beneath the chutzpah is a convincing balladeer who breaks hearts
when she bends her neck back and reaches for the highest note, searching
for the last drop of emotion from a lyric.
Such was the case in Midler's loving homage to Rosemary Clooney
on classics "Hey There" and "Tenderly." And
who would have expected a touching video-aided duet with Mr. Rogers?
But Sunday's audience will likely equally cherish the bawdier humor
of this multi-media concert, set on an elaborate stage recalling
Coney Island's old boardwalk. For example, Midler trashed Britney
Spears in wicked video parody, "The Britney Bunch," set
to the "Brady Bunch" theme.
But she poked fun at herself, too. She sang Brenda Lee's "I'm
Sorry" as penance for her flop TV sitcom, "Bette."
Backed by a 13-piece band, which included a five-man horn section,
plus the Electrifying Harlettes, three singing dancers/cancan girls,
Midler outdid most Broadway musicals with her Dolores Del Lago tale.
Midler and the Electrifying Harlettes performed in tight mermaid
suits, often navigating dance moves while riding motorized wheelchairs.
At times, they hopped about to create Busby Berkeley choreography.
There also were supreme renditions of "Boogie Woogie Bugle
Boy," "Skylark," "From a Distance," "Wind
Beneath My Wings," "Do You Wanna Dance?" "When
a Man Loves a Woman" and "The Rose." But from the
moment Midler hit the stage riding atop a suspended carousel horse,
there was no doubt this was one of the must-see shows of the year.