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Concert Reviews:
Resurgent Cher turns back time at Little Caesars Arena

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Wednesday, February 13, 2019

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DETROIT -- As she finished a lengthy monologue early during her concert Tuesday night, Feb. 12, at Little Caesar's Arena, Cher asked the all-ages crowd, "What is your granny doing tonight?"

It's safe to say that when it comes to still-potent 72-year-old pop culture icons, Cher is in a party of one. She's done enough farewell tours to even poke fun at herself on stage, but the sight of her on stage Tuesday, still silver screen slender (albeit with some acknowledged help in that area), did not seem at all incongruous. Her appearance in last year's "Mama Mia" film sequel gave birth to an ABBA covers album, "Dancing Queen," and her Here We Go Again Tour, and she did indeed turn back time, at least a bit, during the glittery 95-minute show.

Cher was smart enough not to try to compete with the extravagance of contemporary pop divas such as Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. There were no satellite stages or walkways down the middle of the arena or ariel stunts (the latter were reserved for a couple of her 10 dancers). Special effects and "props" such as mirror balls, fireworks and the battleship turrets during "If I Could Turn Back Time" were consigned to projections from the rear-stage video screen. The choreography swirled around the star to provide an energetic illusion without requiring her to move.

The show was, nevertheless, a celebration of Cher's five-plus decade career, not just in music but also in film and TV -- though, curiously, there were no references to her activism, including an outspoken position on the Flint water crisis. She paid tribute to her late ex-husband Sonny Bono with virtual duets on "The Beat Goes On" and "I Got You Babe" -- and during the aforementioned monologue, which focused on the duo's early 70s attempt to resurrect is fortunes as a super club act. And Cher drew mostly from her latter-day hits, leaving, perhaps wisely, campy 70s smashes such as "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" and "Half Breed" on the bench this time.

The greatest flaw was the same as it's been throughout Cher's touring career since the early 90s -- not enough Cher. There were long segments where she was off stage and out of sight, changing costumes a good 10 times while video montages and taped performances of songs such as "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me," "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" filled the gap. And Joel Hoekstra, moonlighting from his regular Whitesnake and Trans-Siberian Orchestra gigs, offered some Guitar God flash during a coupling of "I Found Someone" and "If I Could Turn Back Time."

When she was present, though, Cher was often strong. The ABBA trifecta of "Waterloo," "SOS" and "Fernando" was convincing, as were her renditions of "After All" (sans the Peter Cetera duet from the film "Chances Are"), Marc Cohn's "Walking in Memphis" and a buoyant take on Betty Everett's "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss)" from "Mermaids."

Her 1998 electro pop comeback hit "Believe" was the obvious, but perfect, closing number -- a simple message to suspend disbelief and enjoy the what Cher can still deliver while so many of her peers are sitting at home.

Nile Rodgers and Chic, meanwhile, provided a more organic musical experience to open the evening, blazing through 45 minutes of his uber-successful career as performer, player, songwriter and producer. The nine-piece group barely paused as it breezed through its own hits -- "Le Freak," "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)," "I Want Your Love" and "Good Times," with a snippet of "Rapper's Delight" -- along with Rodgers' collaborations with Sister Sledge ("He's the Greatest Dancer," "We Are Family"), Diana Ross ("I'm Coming Up," "Upside Down"), David Bowie ("Let's Dance") and Daft Punk ("Get Lucky"). Rodgers may not have the multi-media cache of Cher, but he certainly provided a primer to his singular contributions as a master, multi-faceted musician.

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