Whilst America got Neil Rodgers and his band Chic, Cher’s UK opening act was 80s star Paul Young, who failed to get the party going. He’s a nice guy with some good songs but he wasn’t the right choice for Cher. I felt envious of American audiences – Chic made everybody dance, whilst this audience wanted Paul to just go away and let Cher come on.
Cher was well worth the wait, though. The production quality of this concert was astounding. There were lots of set pieces, and lighting was used to create different scenes, such as a cabaret for ‘Welcome to Burlesque’.
She had extensive costume (and wig) changes. She had aerial dancers, a robotic elephant that she rode like a Hindu Deity, and made her grand entrance by descending from the ceiling like a Goddess. She was singing ‘Woman’s World’, but Cher wanted us to know that this was her show.
Whilst the show was elaborate, Cher didn’t take herself too seriously. She didn’t even wait until her grand entrance to make an appearance – she came to the side of the stage and casually waved before going backstage again. She didn’t make the audience wait long for the encore, and once she finished it, she danced around, waved, and skipped away casually.
After her first two songs, she gave a hilarious monologue about age: one might believe in life after love, but nobody can believe she’s 73. She walked from centre-stage to stage-left, before announcing she had to go back to the centre because she “forgot something.” She was effortless yet mesmerising; powerful but hilarious.
It was touching to see Cher sing to her late husband, and musical partner, Sonny. She was unsure whether to include their emotional hit ‘I Got You Babe’, joking that she could instead do it on her “next farewell tour”. She turned her back to the audience as she looked up at archive footage of Sonny.
Cher’s latest album, Dancing Queen, is an ABBA tribute, which she released after appearing in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, so she sung some ABBA hits. Now, being an ethnic minority can be tough, but nothing is as isolating as others discovering you’re one of the few people who don’t love ABBA, but Cher could cover Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ and still astonish everybody, so even ABBA-haters will have become Dancing Queens for the ABBA section!
Cher’s encore was, of course, ‘Believe’. That song basically invented autotune, so it’s great that she used it on her live performance too. The contrast of the emotional lyrical content with her robotic voice and disco music is a work of art.
This concert was almost faultless. There were just a couple of times when it was difficult to see Cher, but that’s a consequence of having a big show with such intense staging and dancing, and the circular shape of an arena. At times, she was blocked by her dancers, and she stood on top of the set for the whole of her performance of ‘Fernando’, which resulted in her being blocked by two large pillars. I could hear the distant drums, but I couldn’t see Cher, who wasn’t distant, just blocked.
Cher was just remarkable. If I could turn back time to that night, I would. I’ve never believed in love, yet she’s made me believe in life after it! She offered a night of emotion, triumph, nostalgia, and ABBA, and if this is her farewell tour – though she will probably live forever – she has sure gone out with a Bang Bang.