Review: Cher at American Airlines Center

Posted 10:42am on Thursday, Mar. 27, 2014

The diva was delayed.

As Cher explained from behind a lavish, skyscraping curtain Wednesday night, technical difficulties with the audio had pushed the start of her much anticipated show by a half hour or so, but finally, the kinks had been worked out. (Frankly, the fact she bothered to apologize at all was appreciated — most arena shows that don’t start on time simply get going, indifferent to the fans waiting, however patiently, for the concert to begin.)

However, the 67-year-old superstar was careful to keep expectations in check: “We’re starting — don’t expect much, OK?”

As if.

Cher’s “Dressed to Kill” tour, the pop icon’s first live performance in North Texas in over 10 years, was a non-stop parade of panache, an opulent tribute to a woman who has endured through all of pop music’s many twists and turns and remained as popular now as she was when her career began over 50 years ago. The near capacity crowd ate it all up, with shouts of “We love you, Cher” intermingling with the cheers and applause after every song.

“Welcome to my new and improved farewell farewell tour,” Cher joked early on. “It is my last [tour] — if I come back [again], I’ll be my mother’s age.”

If this does indeed mark her final trip around the country, she’s going out with a bang.

Situated on a splashy stage, surrounded by screens — the cumulative effect was not unlike being ensconced in a Las Vegas showroom — and backed by an airtight seven-piece band and an impressive corps of dancers, Cher traversed the breadth of her multi-platinum, Grammy-winning catalog, with nearly every song, it seemed, necessitating a costume change (I lost count somewhere around the eighth new outfit). While it was fun to see her emerge in new, more outrageous attire, the time it took for her to change caused the show to seriously drag in spots.

The set list, which stretched for close to 100 minutes, was split into segments, opening with more recent efforts ( Woman’s World; Strong Enough), before traveling back in time for a few golden oldies ( Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves; Dark Lady; Half Breed).

She even managed to employ video clips of Sonny Bono singing I Got You Babe alongside her — something she said beforehand she thought she’d never be able to do — without the gimmick seeming creepy. The finale brought out the big guns: I Found Someone into If I Could Turn Back Time into Believe (and, yes, she managed to swap out clothing between Time and Believe).

Singing live, Cher’s voice was remarkably robust — still capable of hitting notes decades after the fact — and although her movements were somewhat limited, owing to her ongoing recovery from a foot ailment (for what it’s worth, she informed the audience, her doctor thinks she’s crazy for undertaking the physical stresses of a tour), Cher was very much a vibrant presence on stage Wednesday.

In fact, amid all the interstital videos — a clip package of her work in Hollywood climaxed with her 1988 Oscar acceptance speech, which the room cheered as if it were happening right in front of them — elaborate sets, aerialists and lithe dancers, there was no more special effect than Cher. In an era of the shock-and-awe, top-that-if-you-dare pop arms race, charisma — an appeal to a broad swath of the population, rather than a narrow, fervently loyal portion — is a woefully limited commodity.

Cher has lasted as long as she has because what you see is what you get. Yes, she is often festooned with fabulosity, but the woman beneath the gaudy get-ups is a relatable person, someone who isn’t afraid to start a multi-million dollar arena spectacle with a humble apology and a plea for low expectations from rabid fans. She knows who she is and what she brings to the table, a quality that’s becoming as rare as hen’s teeth.

She is an entertainer, in every sense of the word — someone who came up in the old school and has, more or less, deftly adapted to the new school. (It was remarkable to be reminded how she anticipated the explosion of EDM into the mainstream, just as her brief infatuation with dressing up as Elvis underscored how she beat Lady Gaga to the concept of male drag by a good 20 years.)

A glittering grand dame of pop music, one who showed up Wednesday night, dressed to kill, perhaps had the right idea after all.

Cher doesn’t need lowered expectations, so much as everyone who has followed her since does.

Speaking of pop stars who have endured, Pat Benatar’s opening set, an hour of hits that had the audience roaring, was surprisingly intense, veering from Shadows of the Night to We Belong to a scorching Heartbreaker to close things out. Backed by her husband, guitarist Neil Giraldo, and two other musicians, the 61-year-old vocalist showed her pipes are in fine, feisty form 35 years after her debut album.

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713 Twitter: @prestonjones

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