Two hours before Cher was scheduled to hit the US Airways Center stage in Phoenix, AZ to kick off her “final” farewell tour, the 67-year-old multi-hyphenate entertainer said she was backstage sobbing.
Three songs into her March 22 concert, the first of her 49-date North American ‘Dressed to Kill’ tour, Cher broke into a monologue where she confessed that some of her costumes didn’t fit right, that she couldn’t remember the words to two of her songs, and that she broke the nail on her middle finger.
“Tonight you’re going to see the show warts and all — but it’ll be the first,” she said.
And while it wasn’t without its imperfections, Cher still managed to pull off a spectacular opening-night show in front of a sold-out, multi-generational crowd that adored her every word and move. The occasional vocal miscues (a side effect of opening-night jitters, perhaps) were easily forgiven, as they brought the concert an endearing level of realism that is sometimes lacking in super-synchronized, big-production arena concerts.
At 10:20 p.m., Cher arrived on stage atop a pedestal in a glittering goddess gown — complete with an elaborate, feathery headdress — while singing the feminist anthem “Woman’s World” from her latest album, “Closer to the Truth.” Her distinctive voice was in good form, aided by a collective of female backup singers.
A gladiator-themed “Strong Enough” followed just before her monologue, during which she also poked fun at Kim Kardashian’s world-famous derriere.
“I know it’s cool to have a big ol’ ass booty,” Cher said before adding, “[Mine is] not that bad for my age. Kim Kardashian probably has a photo album of her ass.”
Cher brandished her self-deprecating humor throughout the show, making cracks about her own insecurities and her age.
“If I fall on my ass, my shoes are slippery tonight. It’s not me,” she said. “It’s not drugs or drinking, as everybody on Twitter accuses me of… I’m kind of amazed anyone showed up. I thought, ‘Jesus Christ, they’re out there. What are they? Crazy?'”
“Dressed to Kill,” her tour’s namesake, came next. It was an appropriate song given the number of costume changes in the show, and the heart palpitations they gave her screaming fans. From the get-go, Cher — who recently ended her 43-year professional relationship with designer Bob Mackie — didn’t disappoint in the costume department. Colorful and bold, Cher’s stage looks were anything but understated, with many of them winking back to the classic ensembles the diva has sported during her 40-year career. Like her clothes, Cher’s trademark wigs were equally flashy, with a parade of colors — neon pink for “Believe,” platinum blonde for “Take It Like a Man,” sunset red for “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” big, black and bold for “If I Could Turn Back Time” — that made them a show unto themselves.
The only person in the arena who had any complaint about Cher’s outfits was, of course, the diva herself: “Think Lady Gaga has safety pins on her dress? I don’t think so. Maybe just vomit,” she said, referring to Gaga’s now-infamous SXSW stunt. “That was interesting.”
During costume changes, Cher kept the audience entertained with video clips from her films, and footage of her alongside her late, former husband Sonny Bono. During a particularly heart-wrenching moment, Bono appeared on stage, via a giant video screen, during a duet of “I Got You Babe,” which proved to be one of the show’s most poignant moments.
A parade of “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” otherwise known as Cher’s massive dance troupe, made its way around the main floor during the vibrant rendition of the 1971 hit. After “Half Breed,” during which she donned a massive Native American headdress, Cher paid tribute to her appearance in the film “Burlesque” with “Welcome to Burlesque” and “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me,” a somehow prophetic title considering her track record of farewell shows. Riding inside a gilded horse, Cher opted for a striking gladiator theme while singing “Take It Like a Man.”
In a video clip, Cher described her mother’s obsession with Elvis Presley and recounted the enthusiasm felt when she and her mom saw “the King” in concert. Cher honored that moment with a cover of Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis.”
Performances of “Heart of Stone” and “The Shoop Shoop Song” led up to a bevy of classic Cher mega-hits. After treating the crowd to a version of her Billboard top 10 hit “I Found Someone,” Cher slipped into a revealing black bodysuit similar to the one she famously wore in her 1989 video “If I Could Turn Back Time.” “This is what the outfit was made for,” Cher said, driving the audience into such a frenzy that ticketholders in one main floor section attempted to rush the stage.
A little after midnight, Cher was finally ready to call it quits. With a pink bobbed wig set atop her head, she led her band through a high-energy version of her chart-topping dance hit for “Believe” before ending the 20-song set with her recent single, “I Hope You Find It.”
Also treating the audience to a collection of classic hits were show openers Pat Benatar and Neil “Spyder” Giraldo, who took the stage around 8:30 p.m. Celebrating their 35th year in music, Benatar and Giraldo were entertaining in their own right, cranking out hit after hit for about an hour, much to the delight of the crowd.
But Cher — who jokingly called herself the “weak link of the evening” — was clearly worth the price of admission all by herself. The only time her enthusiastic fans showed even a sliver of disappointment was when Cher told them this truly was the last time she’d hit the road — a statement that was met with a chorus of boos.
“I swear to God, this is my farewell, farewell tour,” she said. “I’ll be my mother if I do another concert.”
“Dressed to Kill”
“The Beat Goes On”
“I Got You Babe”
“Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves”
“Welcome to Burlesque”
“You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me”
“Take It Like a Man”
“Walking in Memphis”
“Just Like Jesse James”
“Heart of Stone”
“The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss)”
“I Found Someone”
“If I Could Turn Back Time”
“I Hope You Find It”