Well, that is the Las Vegas of my mind, for, full-disclosure, I’ve never been there, don’t have a great desire to visit, and probably never will. But for one exhausting evening Carol and I got a taste of Vegas when CHER (And I will type her name in caps because the woman is all caps all the time) came to town; to quote the harpy-voice woman sitting behind us, who dropped beer all over Carol twice, “CHER, CHER, holy shit, CHER!”
Our tickets to DTK (Dressed to Kill, the final–yes, I’m not kidding this time, I was 11 years ago, but not this time–tour of CHER’s storied 50-year career in the biz) were birthday gifts from Carol’s sister Janet, who had seen her in Atlanta and had caught CHER fever.
Arriving fashionably early, we had an opportunity to take in the crowds, an event in itself. Faux CHERs were everywhere one looked: gowns, mountainous wigs, black tights, wobbly stiletto boots, and the famous butt-less mesh number CHER wore three decades ago on the Letterman Show during her hair metal incarnation. There were the Tweedle Dee brothers dressed in identical sailor suits and rainbow, rainbow, rainbow (you know, surprising fun fact: CHER is quite popular in the LGBT community, along with blue-haired, polyester boomers, the PBS oldie’s fund-raiser concert crowd).
At 8 p.m. Carol and I were yawning when the lights went down and Cyndi Lauper, draped in a rainbow flag, marched up the center aisle belting out “She-Bop.” Lauper is loose and engaging and has a killer voice, powerful and poignant. And between songs, you get the classic New Yawker voice that seems alien coming from the mouth that moments before sang “Time After Time.” When Lauper broke into “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” the audience decided to just have fun as well, dancing, gyrating, singing along. Carol and I had begun to notice a trio of women behind us who managed to talk over the powerful sound system, their voices harsh and boozy. At odd moments, one of them would screech out, “Cyndie Lauper” as if she were caller number 9 in some radio contest. When they stood up to “just have fun,” one of the trio, spilled beer all over Carol and the lady next to her. They were woozily apologetic: “Shit, I am so sorry. God, let me help you. Jesus, well, now You’ll be talkin’ about the stupid broad who dropped beer on you…”
During the intermission we hustled to the restrooms only to find the lines snaking back, back, back to the next restrooms. 45 minutes later Carol walked out of the women’s room (“Four freaking stalls, FOUR!”) and we settled in for a seismic event. The Loud Ladies filed back in shortly thereafter, and damned if Loudest Lady didn’t spill wine on Carol. More “Can you fuckin’ believe I did it again. I am so sorry. Can I pay you, blah, blah, blah.” Moments later at $20 bill floated down onto Carol’s lap. Carol graciously returned it to Loud Lady, but later whispered, “It wasn’t enough.”
The arena went dark and the crowd went nuts. The lavender curtain raised slowly to reveal a huge stage with winding staircases on either side and a video montage homage to CHER playing in the background. Solid Gold dancers gyrated up and down the stairs. And suddenly rising slowly 20 feet above the stage on a pedestal was CHER. The audience, in a rapturous frenzy, raised the roof as that familiar tough-girl tenor belted out some dance tune that apparently was from her latest album, “CHERiots of Fire” (Okay, I have no idea what her latest album is called). At song’s end, and CHER safely on Stage-a Firma, she engaged us in witty repartee. And she was funny and self-deprecating.
From that point on it was one costume change after another, set changes galore and familiar tunes aplenty. She sang “I’ve Got You Babe” with video Sonny, and I was thinking, “C’mon CHER, this calls for Hologram Sonny” (probably next farewell tour). There were acrobats, magic tricks, a huge Trojan Horse that had nothing to do with anything except that CHER stepped out of it. Hell, a door would have been fine. But glitz won out over logic and the audience could have given flying fig–hmm, flying figs, now that’s entertainment.
The video graphics were always arresting as we were taken on a tour of CHER’s career, musically and cinamatically (although there was no mention of Greg Allman). At times there were 20 people on stage and probably twice that many backstage. Halfway through one number, I heard Loudest Lady say, “Parole office-noisenoisenoise-I don’t know-morenoisenoisenoise-we may have a situation here.” And then something hard dropped on my head. I didn’t turn around, but I thought it was Loudest Lady’s shoe. (After the show I found out she had dropped her cell phone on my head.)
While the crowd boogied ecstatically to” Half Breed,” “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” “If I Could Turn Back the Hands of Time,” (Oh man, how I wished it was 8:30 and not 11:30) and the Believe song that had her singing through a tin can, Carol and I were fading fast. But we hung in there.
Before her last song, an arbor-like platform suddenly appeared below us and floated over the crowd to the stage. CHER, dressed like Raphael’s Madonna (not to be confused with Madonna’s Madonna), stepped gracefully on board, and slowly lifted off and circled the arena singing a lame-o ballad, her goodbye song to the fans. It reminded me of the “Stonehenge” scene in This is Spinal Tap, ridiculously small, and I started to giggle, and then chuckle, and finally guffaw as she touched down on the stage and waved to the crowd and gracefully left the building for the second “last time” in her career. And then the lights went up, the crowd looked righteously spent, Loudest Lady apologized again, assured us her husband, who wouldn’t be caught dead at a CHER concert, would be the designated driver, that she didn’t get out much…yaddayaddayadda.
The merch table, one of many around the arena, was mobbed, as it had been all evening, people buying $40 t-shirts, booklets, posters. Carol and I jostled our way to the exit, and as we left Carol exclaimed, “Oh My God, that was hideous!” And I laughed and replied, “but it was a grand spectacle.” And she agreed. We had a great time!