Music And Concerts



Live At Last (1977)

Billboard peak: # 49

Tracks: "Backstage" - "Friends / Oh My My" - "Bang, You're Dead" - "Birds" - "Comic Relief" - "In The Mood" - "Hurry On Down" - "Shiver Me Timbers" - "Vicki Eydie Show / Around The World / Istanbul / Fiesta In Rio / South Seas" - "Intermission: You're Moving Out Today" - "Delta Dawn" - "Long John Blues" - "Those Wonderful Sophie Tucker Jokes" - "Story Of Nanette / Nanette / Alabama Song / Drinking Again Mr. Rockefeller" - "Fried Eggs" - "Hello In There" - "Finale: Up The Ladder To The Roof / Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy / Friends"

Listen To Audio Samples

Publication Unknown, Mitch Cohen (1977)

"There is danger now for any woman musical comedy star that she will begin 'to give her screaming fans what they want, not realizing that much malice and how much bad taste are mixed with their worship."

Pauline Kael wrote that about Barbra Streisand but it is a warning with particular relevance to Bette Midler. The promise was a woma n with humor, intensity, and the widest possible pop music range, and you can still hear that woman on "Live At Last; She's hip enough to include both Tom Waits and Bertold Brecht in her repertoire and to resurrect frivolous Hit Parade antiques with vivacity and affection. Her ideas about the unity of pop experience are good, and her oddball medleys well executed. She's also one-of- the-guys bawdy-funny, "and this is the first album to capture that. But she settles for too little, pandering to the easily won-over audience, camping it up, playing a 1970's floozie-bitch for easy laughs. The possibility is-and at least she seems aware of it: a section of her act is devoted to a fantasy of becoming a "Vicki Eydie" lounge singer doing a "global revue" - that image and schmaltz will overtake her, and make her no more than a joke.

"Live At Last" is a very accurate document; this is what Midler is: alternately flippant and histrionic, a crowd-pleaser, Miss Personality with a bleat of a voice that, depending on material and mood, can be effective or irritating. She's often breathlessly busy on the fast numbers, and mannered on the slow ones, but there is a middle ground-on "Shiver Me Timbers" and parts of The Story Of Nanette song cycle-and it's there that Midler does her best serious work. The four sides, recorded at. a Cleveland engagement (there's one studio track with a bad case of cutes, give her room to show off the range of her merchandise. Her taste runs to the sentimental, the dramatic, and the quaint, and her song choices vary widely. Brecht & Weill, Leiber & Stoller and Dietz & Schwartz, all brilliant composing teams, have to share time with Klingman & Linhart, perpetrators of the wretched "Friends," Midler's theme song and albatross.

Except on novelty numbers, Midler is a barely adequate singer, but she barrells through dirty blues, cabaret, rock, ballads and big band songs - we're spared her desecration of Dylan and girl groups - on pure energy. Even with the visual element missing you can hear how hard she works. Energy, along with hoked-up emotion, however, added to an already exaggerated show-biz style, could push her irrevocably into the wrong direction; the one suggested by the resemblance of the LP's cover picture to the Jayne Mansfield shot on "Hollywood Babylon:a sexual caricature, amusing to gays who like cartoon women with their nerve ends exposed. Was it only a few years ago that some of our saner critics were comparing her to the Beatles? Will she now be satisfied to be a Jewish Liza Minnelli with funnier lines, better song selection and bigger tits?

Consumer Guide, Robert Christgau

Her fans may find some of the material on this live double-LP repetitious--I could do without five minutes of "Delta Dawn" myself--and her overripe singing will offend those she offends anyway. But she's never recorded fifteen of these twenty-five songs, a few repeats are enhanced by the particulars of this performance, and others gather meaning in theatrical context. A typical stroke: prefacing the glorious tearjerker "Hello in There" with campy, occasionally unkind patter about ladies with fried eggs on their heads, so that the song's romanticized heroine and the weird and depressing fried egg ladies both seem to have something in common with Bette, and therefore with each other. A-

Valerie Potter, Q Magazine

Bette Midler correctly informs the Live At Last audience that she has been "blessed with brains, talent and gorgeous tits". She omits to mention her beautifully expressive voice, equally at ease belting out In The Mood or breathing Tom Waits's ethereal Shiver Me Timbers, and this 1977 release showcases her aptitude for mixing straightforward songs, comic skits and vulgar jokes with dizzying speed and effortless timing.