Published April 06. 2014 9:00AM Updated April 06. 2014 9:15AM
Go ahead and make your jokes about Cher’s age. And bring on your punchlines about her farewell tour that lasted three years — and is being followed up by yet another farewell tour.
The truth is, you can’t fight the spectacle that is Cher. She is a force of spangly-dressed, deep-voiced, charisma-happy nature.
Her “Dressed to Kill” tour, well, killed when it played Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday.
One of the great things about Cher, now 67, is she’s the first to joke about herself. She spoke about how, during one concert, her mind wandered “as it does when you’re 85.”
She said, too, “This is my farewell farewell tour. I know that I said that before ... but if came back, I’d be my mother.”
And she acknowledged “how uncool” it was that she dropped her microphone during Saturday’s opening number, “Woman’s World.”
Then, she added, “Oh, well, I’ve got cool to burn.”
She’s got singing dynamism to burn, too. That singular, throaty voice still packs a wallop. She called the power ballad “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” from “Burlesque” “the beast” and said that getting through it was usually a 50-50 proposition; sometimes she makes it, and sometimes she doesn’t. Well, on Saturday, she tamed the beast, giving a compelling performance — one of the best of the night.
Now, Cher’s singing and Cher’s humor are all well and good, but she’s just as famous for her gonzo costumes. You have to give it to her: the woman mixes lavish and campy like no one else can. For the show opener, she donned a feathered headpiece so extravagant, it would make a peacock feel like a wallflower. For “Half Breed” — while performing at an Native American casino — she slipped into an outfit that mixed Indian influences with pure Vegas flamboyance.
As a sexagenarian, she was one brave soul to slip back on a version of the barely-there ensemble she wore in the iconic “If I Could Turn Back Time” video. Granted, more of her body was cleverly covered up with strategically placed sparkles and some illusion work, but Cher worked that outfit with brash confidence.
The whole production was just as flashy as the outfits. Cher joked about the “gazillion dollars worth” of scenery. She first materialized atop a pedestal — as any self-respecting diva should. She later popped out from a gilded Trojan horse that was wheeled out onstage.
She was surrounded by young, lithe dancers and young, lithe aerialists and young, lithe musicians. They were forever in fevered motion, while Cher kept her dancing minimal — which is just as well, since she looked tentative and uncomfortable on the occasions when she did break into some choreography.
Over the course of the night, Cher ran through her showbiz history, starting with her days with Sonny Bono. She dueted with a video of the late Bono on “I Got You Babe,” which was both eerie and poignant. (The synchronization between his voice and image, though, did seem to slip a few times.)
She galloped through her “Dark Lady” years to her “I Found Someone” 1980s-rock era to her “Believe” dance-music persona.
But you know what the evening needed? More Cher. She cycled through costumes so quickly that she ended spending a lot of time offstage changing — leaving video of her career to run, dancers to gyrate, and back-up singers to perform “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).” It may be heresy to suggest that fewer costume switches would improve a Cher show, but there it is.
You have to give props to Cher for picking an opening act that few would want, for fear of being upstaged. It’d be like a bride picking Gisele Bundchen to be her maid of honor. Pat Benatar had — and arguably, at age 61, still has — one of the best rock voices ever. Her petite physique belies what a powerhouse she is. On Saturday, she swooned (see “We Belong”), and she belted (see “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and, well, most of her other hits). Her husband of 32 years, Neil Giraldo, is her guitarist and musical other half, and the two still possess crackling onstage camaraderie. What a fiery, fun performance.