The last time I reviewed Cher in concert, it was July 2002 after her two nearly sold-out shows at Chicago's United Center.
It was billed as her final bow, dubbed as "Living Proof: The Cher Farewell Tour." Re-reading my 2002 concert review, at that time, at age 56, she still had two more later stops in the Midwest, with performances in Indianapolis and Moline, Ill., in addition to a return stop back in Chicago to close the tour. So, I urged readers to scoop up tickets ASAP with the following play-on-words of encouragement: "Remember, these are the final moments to Cher."
But Cher is always full of surprises, which is her trademark and also the good fortune for all. She just turned 68 three weeks ago, and here I am, 12 years later, once again writing a review of Cher's farewell tour. This time, we were treated to only a one-night Chicagoland stop at Allstate Arena in Rosemont for her "Dressed to Kill Tour," which is her eighth solo concert tour of her more than 50-year amazing and iconic career.
Besides the one-hour opening act by Cyndi Lauper (more on her later), Cher performed 19 songs with several stunning and elaborate costume changes during the nearly two hours she ruled the stage, entertaining audience members of all ages. After reminding of her own age, she asked the audience: "So what's your grandmother doing tonight, while I'm up here on stage?"
After 40 years of wardrobe label devotion, she sported new designs for this tour, conceived and created by Hugh Durant. Earlier this year, she revealed that long-favored fashion friend Bob Mackie, who is now 74, wasn't able to commit to the major project of adorning the superstar with another new parade of his amazing designer gowns for this latest road show. (While Mackie's name was never mentioned, he still had a presence with Cher donning her famous fishnet-stockings "Turn Back Time" costume which she first sported 25 years ago for the now famous music video of the same name, as well as large looming screens with various clips throughout the night showcasing Mackie's many designs from the decades).
Cher's opening number for this tour is "Woman's World," followed by "Strong Enough." Some banter with the audience was interspersed with her sipping Dr. Pepper, which she says is the only man's name who's lasted the longest at her side (though she says her assistant Jen is helping "ween her off it" by gradually diluting the soda with sparkling water). She also explained after the soda company heard of her fondness for their fizzy product, they sent her a six pack in a small, vinyl cooler which she showcased from the stage, while poking fun at the company's frugality.
Her "Dressed to Kill" number featured a Gothic castle motif and the singer suspended from a chandelier, the latter prop having been used in the 2002 tour. Up next, clips of her life with her famed other half, Sonny Bono set to "The Beat Goes On," and followed by something she admitted to the audience she never thought she ever would agree to do: perform their duo anthem "I've Got You Babe." For the emotional tribute, she performs her lyrics set to the late Sonny's singing from his broadcast image on a screen behind her.
In her 2002 tour, she included a circus-theme segment with herself garbed as ringmaster. This time, fittingly, the circus motif returned. But this time, Cher is centerstage dressed as a gypsy and then, as a Native American, including long-flowing feathered headdress to perform a medley of retro hits such as "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves," "Dark Lady" and "Half-Breed." A montage of film clips from her various films followed, along with a costume change and two songs from her 2010 movie "Burlesque."
One of my favorite segments was set to her performance of "Take It Like a Man" featuring Cher emerging from a very symbolic towering Trojan Horse. Following a quick salute to her idol Elvis Presley with the song "Walking in Memphis," and a story of her mother Georgia (who turns 88 today!) taking her to see The King perform, her final concert stretch includes her most recent chart toppers like "It's In His Kiss," "I've Found Someone" and "Believe" as Cher closes the concerts floating over the entire audience on a suspended platform singing "I Hope You Find It."
As for Cyndi Lauper, now 61, who sported tousled red locks (my mom Peggy, who attended with me, thought her hair and pieced-together wardrobe made her look like Raggedy-Ann), announced to the audience her Broadway hit "Kinky Boots" is returning to Chicago (where it first previewed before hitting New York) for a return run in July 2015.