Grand Rapids, Michigan(May 8,2019)-Sell-outs at Van Andel Arena are a common occurrence. But it is safe to say there hasn’t been many when it comes to a “still relevant” 72-year old pop icons. Cher, the age defying Diva, is in that party, albeit all by herself. She has done enough farewell tours over the years to even poke fun at herself while on stage, yet still retains the glamour and mystique that has made her nearly six decade career legendary. With her surprising return to the silver screen in 2018’s Mama Mia! Here We Go Again and a new Abba covers album, ”Dancing Queen,” a rekindled interest in Cher made for an easy decision for the final farewell tour.
The tour itself, Cher:Here We Go Again Tour, does turn back time, but not to the extent that fans want. It reminded us of a Las Vegas type residency show that is solid yet leaves you lusting for more. Cher is experienced enough not to try and compete with the extravagant productions such as Pink and Lady Gaga who each rely heavily on acrobatics and extended runways. Instead Cher relies on modern and safer technology for her secondary effects. Fireworks, mirror balls and the battle ship turrets, which are a prominent fixture in the original video for “If I Could Turn Back Time,” were choreographed from large, multi-screened projection units at the rear of the stage. That, along with 10 talented dancers who perform well timed yet intricate routines around the starlet, make for a energetic and visual performance that rival artists a third of Cher’s age.
Wednesdays show wasn’t just a trip down memory lane for Cher’s musical provenance, it was an overall celebration of her decades long career. She paid heartfelt tributes to her late ex-husband Sonny Bono with virtual duets on “The Beat Goes On” and the iconic yet career defining “I Got You Babe”. An opinionated disappointment in her set-list was omitting such 70’s classics “Gypsies,Tramps and Thieves” and “Half Breed” while focusing on later day hits drawn from the archives and her most recent release, 2018’s Dancing Queen. Even though the fans seemed miffed by the song selections, the mix played out well for the ebb and flow of the intricately choreographed performance.
One complaint we heard resonating throughout the evening from fans in attendance—not enough Cher. As it has been throughout her long illustrious career, there were long segments where she was off stage and out of sight for costume and set changes. On this tour though, video montages and recorded performances of “You Havent Seen the Last of Me”, “Heartbreak Hotel” and unfortunately “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) filled the gaps. But when she WAS present, Cher was vocally strong and energetic. Her covers of the ABBA classics, “SOS”, “Fernando” and “Waterloo,” were vibrant and crowd pleasing. “After All” the duet with Peter Cetera from the film Chances Are, proved that Cher can still bring an arena to their feet with a booming crescendo that sounds almost as good today as it did 30-years ago. Even the soulful Marc Cohn classic “Walking in Memphis,” took on a whole new persona when Cher dropped down to that deep raspy range we all wondered if she still had. Based on the reaction from the packed arena, the answer was a resounding yes!
Like all great performers often do, Cher saved the obvious for last. Her 1998 comeback hit “Believe” was the perfect choice to close out her one hour fifteen minute set. Enchanting and optimistic in every sense, the lyrics makes one wonder if this is a musical biography of Cher’s life or just another classic that tends to the imagination. We may never know but it does make for an appropriate ending.
Even though we question song selection and time on stage, Cher’s Here We Go Again Tour is a must see event if you have ever been a fan. She is a throwback to an era where music and entertainment was affordable but family friendly and fun. Remember, the lady is 72 years old and still can give any artist half her age a run for their money, vocally and visually. Granted, she has slowed down a little and doesn’t move around the stage as she used to, but she still is one hell of an entertainer.
Finally, as we left Van Andel Arena I looked around one more time at the crowd and thought to myself, “What is YOUR Granny doing tonight?
CHER © JOHN SWIDER Please do not alter image