This critic makes no pretensions of being a devotee of the contemporary pop/rock music scene, but I count myself very lucky to have been seated “on the hill” at the Woodlands Pavilion Friday evening for the opening performance of Cher’s international tour. It was an extraordinary night, and one I am sure those present will long remember.
During warm-up performances from Wild Orchid and Cyndi Lauper, there was an atmosphere of super-charged, party-ready youth in the amphitheater. There were plenty of beers and cigarettes, wild outfits, “gourmet” haircuts and punk hairdos for the guys and gals. The percussion was pounding, and Miss Lauper was ready with high energy numbers like “Burn Baby, Burn!,” “Sisters of Avalon,” and the softer “Time After Time.” But the main event would be more than just another pop concert.
It was 9:30 when the audience rose to its feet in anticipation to welcome their arriving “Diva.” Cher would earn that name this night by reaching a new level of excellence in her 35-year entertainment career. She appeared dramatically on a slowly rising platform reminiscent of the old rising orchestra pit in New York’s Radio City Music Hall. Her first hairdo of the evening was an appropriately (for Cher) outrageous and massive mane of rust-red that called to mind the Cowardly Lion. In true Cher style, it was perhaps symbolic of that little part of each of us that longs to do something outlandish before we die.
The audience stayed on its feet for Cher’s powerful opener, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” An evening of dramatic, sensuous, and well-executed choreography and fashion would be beautifully displayed on a U-shaped ramp that embraced the stage. Electrifying lighting effects were everywhere in a production of astounding quality in every detail. It seemed as though we were present at some perfectly tuned Oscar, Tony, or Grammy show. One wondered how a show of such scale could be packaged for travel from city to city.
Above all there was the astonishing power of Cher’s voice in concert. It was truly remarkable to see a woman of 53 bring such unlimited energy and vocal excellence to a performance. Judy Garland was a younger woman when she wowed ’em at Carnegie Hall.
Our star was complemented by extraordinary video projections featuring performer close-ups, movie clips, and choreography, all assembled with great skill. Some dance sequences, (such as the Flamenco number, and one eerie, surreal, Fellini-esque underworld scene) were the equal of Broadway production numbers.
The pure clarity and tone of Cher’s voice was well displayed in “The Way of Love.” In a dynamic “Take Me Home” she looks like Cleopatra in her exotic, beaded gown. During the film clip segments we are reminded of the large body of work she has to her credit in a variety of films, and, of course her many television programs with then-husband, Sonny Bono.
“I’m Strong Enough” brought the crowd again to its feet. Audience members, Bob and Fran Pizzitola of Pearland were thrilled. Fran remarked “This was the finest superstar performance I have ever seen.” Mr. Pizzitola, (an investment Executive with Paine Webber who has avoided the Pavilion since a miserably rainy Linda Rondstadt concert there some ten years ago) took his wife’s praise a step further saying, “This may be the greatest show I have ever seen!”
The fans remained standing for a powerful “If I Could Turn Back Time.” If the audience could have turned back time, they would gladly have started the concert over again. They had to settle for a sensational encore of Cher’s current pop hit, “Believe.” Those of us who were there are now believers!
(The Courier 6.23.99)
(The Villager 6.30.99)