Cher is not a legend, according to Cher.
"I hate that word," she recently told Elle magazine for its annual Women in Music issue. "Legend, icon, diva. I hate all those (expletive) words. They're meaningless. I prefer Cher."
This from a woman who literally began Friday night’s show at the MTS Centre atop a pedestal.
Still, whether she likes it or not, Cher is all of those things — and she’s certainly worthy of admiration. At 68, she’s still out there doing it, sticking an expertly manicured middle finger in the face of the detractors who would prefer if she just went away. You see, Cher is a famous woman who has the audacity to keep working in show biz despite no longer being young and nubile. She is a famous woman who has the temerity to bare her aging body onstage, to reject the societal expectation that she "age gracefully" — whatever that means. Reviewers and online commentators alike seem to feel vaguely embarrassed for her, as though making music is the sole province of the young.
Listen, haters: Cher doesn’t care about your faux concern. She’s Cher. Also, your ‘turn back time’ jokes aren’t funny.
She’s also been mocked for being on a seemingly endless farewell tour; her hamfistedly titled Living Proof: The Farewell Tour in the early aughts lasted no less than three years before she became a fixture of Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas from 2008 through 2011. But it was her appearance in 2010’s campy Burlesque alongside Christina Aguilera that put her back in mainstream consciousness; by 2013, she was promoting Closer to the Truth, her 25th studio album. Armed with a brand new female empowerment anthem-cum-club jam — the high-energy show opener Woman’s World — she hit the road again on this current Dressed to Kill tour. Which she swears is her last. "I’m really not kidding. This is my farewell farewell tour," she said with an exaggerated wink. "I’m never, ever coming back, I swear to God."
To see a Cher concert is to see a fabulous person relishing in her own fabulousness. "What’s your granny doing tonight?" she purred after a rousing rendition of Strong Enough. She’s a master of the spectacle, of which there was no shortage at Friday night’s show. For Dressed To Kill, she rose out of the floor on giant chandelier wearing a barely-there beaded bodysuit and a high-drama black headpiece, the third costume change in as many songs. The show was just as much about the costumes as it was about the music; this, after all, is a woman who has captured the imaginations of drag queens for decades.
Cher then took it back to the 1960s in a red sequined mini and matching gogo boots for a slinky version of The Beat Goes On, which was followed by I Got You Babe, with her late husband Sonny Bono appearing via video screen.
The stage was then transformed into a circus — complete with bearded ladies, acrobats and stilt walkers — for a medley of Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves and Dark Lady.
She then donned the infamous headdress for Half Breed. Some things are best left in the 1970s; regardless of Cher’s (much-debated) Cherokee ancestry, both the song and its presentation reeked of the sexpot stereotype Buffy Sainte-Marie once coined "Pocahontas in fringes.")
Later in the set, things got downright cinematic, with Cher emerging from a giant, gilded Trojan horse in a gold gladiator costume and a lion’s mane of blonde curls for Take It Like a Man. (The wig budget on this tour must be something else.)
After Walking in Memphis, she stripped away some of the spectacle for Just Like Jesse James, which she just belted from a stool at the centre of the stage, clad in a black jumpsuit. There were no backup dancers, no gimmicks. Just her voice. And that deep, dusky voice is still there, by the way — showcased beautifully on the night’s other big ballads, such as You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me.
Of course, she donned the iconic 1990s black bodysuit and the giant hair for the 1980s glam rocker I Found Someone, slipping into a black leather jacket for a powerhouse, fists-in-the-air performance of If I Could Turn Back Time.
The show closed with 1998’s monster hit Believe — she wore a pink wig and heart-shaped pasties for that one — and, interestingly, I Hope You Find It, a ballad off the new album. Standing on a platform suspended from cables, she floated above the audience, traversing the length of the arena while her fans worshipped from below. And she says she’s not a diva.
If this is truly her farewell tour, well, it’s not a bad one to go out on.
An icon in her own right, Cyndi Lauper’s high-energy opening set/comedy routine was worth the price of admission. The brassy New Yorker is still celebrating the "30-and-a-half" anniversary of her smash 1983 debut She’s So Unusual, so the set was a veritable 1980s hit parade. Opening with the once-controversial ode to masturbation She Bop, Lauper — hair dyed a shock of Manic Panic red — performed all of her confectionary synthpop classics, from party-starters such as Money Changes Everything and the bachelorette/rom com staple Girls Just Want to Have Fun through to the disco-ball shimmer of All Through The Night and Time After Time. But it was during a cover of Etta James’ At Last that we were really reminded of the power of her voice.