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Cher’s Final Farewell Tour
Living Proof That She’s a Diva for All Time
By Lori Thompson
(more articles from this author)
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Part goddess, part royalty, all diva, Cher descends from on high (literally from the ceiling) as a filmy white curtain is raised to reveal her in full form to the sold out Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton, New Jersey, on June 3. Decked out in full regalia and glittering from head to toe, she later refers to herself as a drag queen piñata—much to the amusement of her substantial gay following. After she touches down on stage, Cher is immediately attended to by several female handmaidens first releasing her from the circus harness that secured her on her descent.

Yes, she has been "a diva for 40 frickin' years" (her words) and the years have been good to her—and to her fans. She belts out "I still haven't found what I'm lookin' for" in that rich, husky, distinctively Cher voice, while the handmaidens remove her royal, rhinestone-studded, hooded cape (white fur-trimmed). This is an exciting, refreshing change of pace from the grunge-look that we've become accustomed to with today's younger performers.

Cher's a blonde for starters—with a glittering jeweled headband—and her outfit (that is, her first outfit) is reminiscent of a genie—and it works on her. She's genuine—singing and moving energetically (belying her 57 years) from one end of the stage to the other. With the hand gesture of pinky, forefinger and thumb extended, she pumps her hands toward her fans much to their delight. And her fans are of all sorts: from pre-teens to septuagenarians, heterosexuals and homosexuals, males and females (about an even mix) and possibly some in between.

She is her own woman—one who makes jokes about her own affinity for younger men (and men in general) and offering a subtle sexual hint to the effect that if she has to be flat on her back in bed, it might as well be time well spent. It's not crude or overly lusty—it's just matter-of-fact and she still has the looks and body to carry it off. Her songs, too, reflect her independence and strength: "Come hell or waters high, you'll never see me cry." And, "I've been losing sleep and you've been going cheap and she ain't worth half of me, it's true."

After her first song, she peels off (backstage) the outer layer of her genie costume to reveal a more close-fitting, glittering white leotard. She finishes her second number in the leotard and is presented with an oversized bright red top hat with long red plumes jutting up from one side, a red ringmaster (ringmistress?) coat with tails, and a whip. She talks in a playfully wistful tone as she cracks and swings the whip nonchalantly from side to side. Then, she talks about how she chose the theme for her final farewell tour. She said the good Cher thought that peace signs and flowers might be nice, but the bad Cher thought about the young stars like Britney Spears and decided that she should make this tour a little bolder. To be more specific, to today's rising ‘divas' (and I use the term loosely in their regard), Cher issues the ultimate challenge, "Follow this you bitches." (The bad Cher won.)

This is show number 135 on her Living Proof tour and she looks none worse for the wear. There's only a hint of weakness in her voice on the softer, slower melodies, like "After All," the duet with Peter Cetera. (There was rumor that she had a sinus infection.) However, like the consummate performer and professional that she is, she pushes herself—and her voice—to belt out faultless renditions of the fast-paced, more intense numbers like "If I Could Turn Back Time" and "Strong Enough."

Though the Sovereign Bank Arena stage looks menacingly small for such a big act, she manages to fit in every possible effect, including a cadre of acrobatic and suggestive dancers (sometimes on the stage, sometimes flying high above on colored ribbons and shiny metal circus rings), and a mechanical elephant. The elephant, by the way, carries Cher inside. Once the mechanical animal is released on stage, Cher (now dark-haired) rises up from the back of the beast clad in a filmy, sparkling pale blue and white outfit with her face demurely covered and only eyes exposed. She rides the back of the elephant across the stage singing another selection from "The Very Best of Cher" CD. Finally, she descends back into the belly of the beast and is released on stage.

Then, "Bang Bang"—you shot me down. She emerges from beneath a covered walkway in center stage dressed in skin-tight, black and red striped leather-looking leotard. To top off the outfit, she wears an enormous black fringe mane emanating from high atop her head and stretching down her back. She is the lioness with the male lion's mane. Joining her cadre of dancers, she moves with them in unison across the stage.

Back to a blonde again, she appears out of the darkness on the platform high above the stage. She's wearing 60s-style vertical striped bell-bottom hip-huggers, wide belt, and a close-fitting sweater underneath a fur vest (reminiscent of a vest Sonny wore in a video clip shown earlier in the show). Descending from the platform, she starts in on a medley of "Half-Breed," "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves," and "Dark Lady" with a lightness and an ease that seem to say these songs are associated with the happiest memories.

With each number, she steps into line with the dancers to show off some of the choreography that she too knows—and to show off her next outfit. The costume thrill of the evening is the black leather and lace, barely-there get-up with thigh-high black boots that she dons while singing "Strong Enough" and "If I Could Turn Back Time." She has enough of her rear-end exposed to make the outfit illegal if worn outside the arena. Everyone in the audience, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, must have been gaping at the amazingly trim and tight body of this 57-year-old woman as she strode and skipped across the stage (in spiked heels no less). Her hair this time—black curly locks—lots of them. She bends down (carefully) on stage to retrieve a sailor's cap embroidered with "Cher" on the front. She dons the cap and skips back across the stage, later tossing the cap into the audience to be caught by one of her many adoring male fans.

And for her final number, she descends from on high once again. "Believe." She wears a tight-fitting white-fringed jumpsuit that would have made Elvis proud. The only hint of color in this costume is a red heart-shaped design on her chest behind a few thin bands of white cloth. She's a bold redhead for this song—and she's still Cher. The costume and wig changes are too numerous to recall, but none detract from the fact that the core is Cher—classic Cher. She has the confidence to try anything, take on any look, and not lose herself.

More than a superstar singer, Cher is a seemingly complex composite of many individuals: half of the legendary Sonny and Cher team, a sitcom personality, and a movie star in her own right (clips of her movies were shown on three large screens during scene and costume changes). When watching her perform on stage and viewing the video clips of her life, it's awe-inspiring to be in her presence. There are also those endearing clips of Sonny and Cher, as a fresh-faced young couple singing "I've Got You Babe" to each other that are very much a part of her show. One gets that sense that the clips are more than nostalgic—they are a sweet and loving memorial to Sonny. She has the depth and class that are sorely lacking in many of today's younger performers, and she has the wisdom and self-confidence that come only from having reached maturity successfully and having lived fully and lived well.

If you haven't seen her on this final tour, get tickets now. This writer is going to see her again in July in Atlantic City. Cher may still not have "found what [she's] lookin' for," but her fans have found it in this Living Proof tour. Indeed, "Follow this you bitches."

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