KMB Review: The Citizens Voice

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Photo: Mr. Brian P.

The Divine Miss M transcends just about every label the thesaurus can deliver.
By Alexander Choman
Citizens’ Voice Music Critic

One of show business’ most outrageous performers, Bette Midler proved that her moniker is well deserved by staging a lavishly excessive stop on her “Kiss My Brass” tour at the Wachovia Arena at Casey Plaza on Saturday night.
The sold-out performance featured songs from throughout the 58-year-old performer’s career, including several multi-million selling albums as well as music from some of the 19 motion pictures in which she appeared.

From the opening of the show, in which she rode in on a carousel horse high above the stage and audience, and throughout the two-and-a-half hour show, Midler never disappointed once those expecting her either to sing or act outrageously.

She paced the Wachovia Arena stage nervously throughout the night telling stories, cracking jokes and just being Bette.

For the most part, her humor was whip-crackingly sharp. Whether it was about Rush Limbaugh, Barry Manilow or even herself, the Divine Miss Excess knows how to be funny.

When she performed “Chapel of Love,” video images of couples that have long since split rolled by on the drop-down video screens. She quipped, “I remember when exchanging vials of blood used to mean something!” as pictures of Angeline Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton rolled by. The audience devoured it.

Even those that consider her in excess (really?) had to be moved by Divine Miss M’s vocal contributions. After all, this is how she started her career, folks.
Versions of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” Buzzy Linhart’s “Friends” and “Chapel of Love,” all from the first album, were superb. Likewise, “Skylark” from the self-titled second album and Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today” were simply outstanding.

Probably the greatest thing about this show is that never once did Midler let her penchant for excess distract from her singing. The backing orchestra, directed by Bette Sussman, was outstanding.

Midler’s selections from her most recent recordings, “Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook,” were excellent. “Come On-A My House” and “Tenderly” were thoughtfully arranged (via Manilow) and exceptionally presented. Midler shined brightly on vocals during both songs.

While the first part of the concert Saturday evening relied much more on earlier material, the second portion leaned on songs like “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “From A Distance,” which continued to cement her reputation into the 1980s.
Watching her Saturday evening, it reminded me of how far this Jewish girl from Hawaii has really come. From performing free at New York hot spots like Hilly’s and the Improvisation decades ago to becoming the darling of late night television via Johnny Carson and then sound and screen, she really has earned her way along the entire journey.

Can you imagine seeing her in the early days with her rock quartets and Barry Manilow as the musical director?

Saturday evening, Bette gave us her all. From Dolores de Lago to a video bit with Judge Judy and her failed television series, to the show stopping “The Rose,” the Divine Miss Excess gave us everything.

Bette Midler, singer, comedienne and outrageous provocateur. The Divine Miss M transcends just about every label the thesaurus can deliver.

But simply put, what she is, is an entertainer. And a very, very good one at that!

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