Miss M – A bit repetitious but still devine, Bette reurns to the Palace

By |2018-01-16T06:01:03-05:00April 11th, 2004|Uncategorized|

Well, the trend in music tours these days is apparently to hit each city twice per outing, unless of course you’re Cher, in which case you hit each city at least a half a dozen times or so. Cher’s tour, which has come to this area at least five times over the past two years, is, allegedly, her farewell to the concert stage. But her old friend Bette Midler, whose Kiss My Brass tour will return to the Palace of Auburn Hills for a repeat performance on Friday, Nov. 5, shows no sign of slowing down.
It’s tempting to compare Midler’s career with Cher’s – their relationship has run hot and cold for decades – or even, as one online reviewer recently did, to Barbra Streisand’s – they’re both nice Jewish girls whose careers skyrocketed after a stint on Broadway. But the key difference is that Midler has retained a magical quality that Streisand and Cher appear to have lost somewhere in the 70s – the ability not to take themselves too seriously. Both Cher and Barbra were, once upon a time, equally as quirky as Bette. (Don’t you just love how all three of them are instantly recognizable by their first names alone?) I mean, you remember the Sonny & Cher Show, right? Then there was Streisand’s turn on the big screen in “What’s Up Doc?” with Ryan O’Neal. But by the 80s, with Cher transformed into a fishnet stockings-wearing hard rocker and Streisand showing up only on album and in the occasional film produced with her complete control, only Bette had maintained her approachability. Indeed, it was Midler’s willingness to be so outrageous, which she pulled off with ease, that won her that hefty film contract from Touchstone Pictures.
Musically, in sheer volume of album’s sold, Streisand has moved more wax that Bette and Cher combined. But on the concert stage, Bette has had far greater longevity. Barbra’s stage fright caused her to take a two-decade hiatus, and by the time she eventually returned she was stiff and almost holier-than-thou, and her incredibly steep ticket prices were a real turnoff. Cher, incredible chameleon that she is, has done well under her latest transformation – into a retiring chanteuse whose giving a never-ending farewell tour. But her popularity on the stage has come and gone through the years in the aftershock of each new transformation.
Bette has been the consistent concert draw. In the past decade she’s had a handful of successful tours to her credit. It may all be a bit much for the casual Bette fan, though. I mean, I love Bette, but how many times do I have watch her wheel herself across the stage playing Delores De Lago, the singing mermaid? That’s the real problem with Kiss My Brass and its return engagement, to be specific. I watch her pull out the same acts tour after tour and still manage to smile, but ask me to watch her do the same thing twice in one tour and the frown on my face has managed to turn itself rightside up.
It’s fabulous that Bette can still draw a crowd though, and that her albums continue to sell well. She hit a rough spot a few years back when she left Atlantic, her longtime label, for Warner Brothers. Her first WB album, “Bathhouse Betty,” went gold. But the follow up, simply titled “Bette,” did not. Midler’s newest release, “Bette Midler Sings The Rosemary Clooney Songbook,” which teams her once again with her early accompanist, Barry Manilow, is on the Columbia label. Personally, as much as I love Bette, if I’m going to listen to Rosemary Clooney songs, I’d rather they be sung by Rosemary Clooney. Still, Midler’s new album, which has gone gold, probably served to introduce Clooney to a new audience. Midler and Manilow took a few hits for updating songs like “Come On-A My House,” but Midler’s voice makes up for most of the mistakes.
When you’re divine, people tend to overlook your faults. And without a doubt Bette still is and always will be just that.

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.