A couple of hours or so after superstar Cher had belted out one of her biggest hits, “If I Could Turn Back Time” as the penultimate song of her sensational Birmingham Arena show last night, we did just that in the UK – clocks went back an hour as summertime officially ended and wintertime began.
But the cold and damp night outside was of no importance to the 15,800 fans selling out this West Midlands arena to catch this veteran artist back at it again after a 14 year wait. She was in fine, fine form too.
Her current “Here We Go Again World Tour” began in 2018 and ends in a few weeks’ time – following her supposed 2005 “Farewell Tour” last time around. Since then she has graced the Vegas stage for a residency, but not toured.
Cher looked fabulous. The stage production was OTT and uber-camp – very much Vegas comes to Brum! Male and female dancers, lots of costumes, wigs and even a giant mechanical elephant with flashing eyes and tusks that she rides. A stunt she has resurrected from her farewell tour.
This megastar Diva would never be content with a normal run of the mill entrance, darlings. No way. Her first arrival onto the stage is from the heavens; lowered in a bird-cage like contraption, wearing a bright blue wig and looking a million dollars.
There may have been a gaggle of bodies on that stage, but there was only one person in charge and only one giant star. So after her first two songs, when she then told the fans to sit, they did as they were told and she launched into a 10 minute story-telling session.
Well a bit of a rant too, about various topics including turning 40 – and that my friends, was 33 years ago, but she looks at least two decades younger thanks to a little “help” maybe – and her sadness of being told she was not “sexy enough” for a part in the hit movie “Witches Of Eastwick”, which of course, she did go on to star in.
She is not impressed, she says, with women who say they are content to grow old. She wants young girls to know they can do a normal thing, but must hang on to their dreams.
Now when you have paid a lot for a ticket and coughed up for car parking, fuel, babysitters, arena-priced food and drink, and maybe some merchandise, the last thing you want to be told on a Saturday night is to sit down and then have to be quiet.
To be subjected to an OAP whining about stuff that does not affect you at all. An old lady who lives on the beach in Malibu and is said to be worth up to four hundred million dollars, who could probably purchase a small island or two, and not miss the cash from her account. She’s not had to save up for this night out or Christmas fast approaching.
You want to hear the hits and shake your booty, as it’s not a school night. Not a lecture. But Cher is one of the very few artists who could do this and not only get away with it, but have 15,000+ people treating her with the upmost respect and actually listening, without any shouts for “get on with it”, as would be likely if most bands or artists tried it.
This part of the show presumably lifted from her Vegas run, where the punters would be sat down and lapping up the insight into Cher’s life and career. Where she slags off Trump and even movie stars she has worked with.
But the show begins with a montage of some of her career highlights across a six-decade career, on the giant video screens. Then she kicks things off with “Woman’s World” and “Strong Enough”, surrounded by her dance troupe clad in Gladiator-style costumes and head gear.
Two more songs and then her monologue, before the fabulous Sonny and Cher hit, “The Beat Goes On”. So infectious. And then the wonderful and timeless “I Got You Babe”. Both of those songs sung tonight as duets with her late husband Sonny Bono. Yes, really.
He is seen on the big screen in black and white, and his voice blasting out of the PA around the arena. Cher swapped the blue barnet for her trade-mark 60s black locks for the two Sonny and Cher songs.
She nips off stage a few times in the show and leaves the band to play on without her, for the costume changes. The track “Welcome To Burlesque” is set in a glitzy burlesque club stage set, a nod to the 2010 movie “Burlesque” in which she starred with Christina Aguilera.
There is then a three song treat for Abba fans and for those who loved the movie “Mama Mia: Here We Go Again”, from last year – in which Cher shone as the mother of Meryl Streep’s character.
Cher also churned out the Abba hits as only she can, on her 26th studio album last year, “Dancing Queen”.
Tonight, she effortlessly delivered “Waterloo”, “SOS” and “Fernando” to rapturous applause, and a 15,000+ strong choir in full voice.
For the Abba medley, she dons a figure hugging (is she really 73?) purple, sequinned catsuit and blonde wig. Roars of approval when footage of her accepting an Oscar is screened during the Abba segment.
She adds that Cher sparkle dust to this trio of globally known tracks, yet makes them sound like Benny and Björn had sat down at the piano 40+ years ago and wrote them just for her! Maybe they did!!!
Another costume-change before “After All”, when she comes on dressed in a gold crown and gown, followed by her Elvis tribute, “Heartbreak Hotel”, and then her hit cover of the brilliant Marc Cohn song “Walking in Memphis”.
Or “Memphusss” as she pronounces it! Her voice is a tight fit for this song, a truly superb cover.
Some may dig her fun version of “The Shoop Shop Song (It’s In His Kiss)”, which she delivers next, but I’d rather hear a track she had a big hit with in 1971, which for me, is not given the praise it deserves….”Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves”.
Written by Bob Stone, it was originally called, “Gypsys, Tramps And White Trash,” but producer Snuff Garrett insisted on the name change and Mr Stone obliged. Not on the set list for this tour.
That’s was it for the main set. Off she goes, lights go down and the cacophonous chants for more prompt the obligatory encore. But very much welcomed tonight after such a masterclass performance.
I heard she was asked to do the legends spot at Glastonbury and turned it down because of the fee she was offered. Not sure if that is true or not. But if it is, Glasto’s loss is Birmingham’s gain tonight, for sure. And for her fans in London, Manchester, Glasgow, Leeds and Dublin on the UK leg of this tour.
Song one of the three-song encore begins with a Michael Bolton cover, “I Found Someone” and then the biggie, “If I Could Turn Back Time”. This was definitely the one they all wanted tonight, and it did not disappoint.
Her final song is the smash hit, “Believe” a real ear-worm, and still the best selling single of all time in the UK by a female artist, more than 20 years after its release.
Topping the charts in 20 countries and making her the oldest artist to have a number one in the US Billboard chart. It has sold more than 11 million copies. She was ahead of all the rappers and r&b singers who now use auto-tuned vocal effect.
Cherilyn Sarkisian has just about done it all in her long, long career. Singer, songwriter, actress. She’s reinvented herself time and time again. From rock chick to disco diva. 60s pop star to power ballad Queen, and more. An adored global gay icon.
She has won an Oscar, an Emmy, three Golden Globes, a Grammy, a Cannes Film Festival Award and other major accolades for her efforts. By the sound of it, she ain’t done just yet, either.
They say nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. Oh yes, it bloody well is. Just ask the High Priestess of Camp, who could show Kylie and her ilk a thing or two – and she’s old enough to be the little Aussie one’s grandmother! Cher: Legend in the true sense of the word.
Diana Ross has that coveted Legends spot sown up at Glastonbury next year. Cher should be next, even if the Eavis’ have to sell a few cows, sheep and a Massey Ferguson or two to pay for it! Even I might don the wellies and brave the mud for that…
- Paul Young is support on the UK dates. Nile Rodgers and Chic on the US leg.
Words: Simon Redley
Photos: Jason Sheldon