Few artists could follow Cyndi Lauper, whose hourlong set opening for Cher Monday at Time Warner Cable Arena received a standing ovation.
But Cher isn’t just any artist. At 67 (she’ll be 68 later this month), she’s the oldest female artist currently touring a full-scale arena show. But when she wore the floor-length Native American headdress and stick-straight black hair during “Half-Breed,” it was as if time had stopped in 1973.
Cher may be no longer be as limber and loose or as rail-thin as her dancers, but it seemed fitting for the larger-than-life queen to tower over her subjects as she did in the Egyptian-themed opening of her No. 1 2013 dance single “Woman’s World.”
So how does an AARP-card-carrying diva rule an arena for almost two hours and 17 songs? She paces herself, and takes a couple inches off her stilettos.
Lauper, 60, got things off to a strong start. From the first notes of “She Bop” to the a cappella segment of “True Colors” to leading a teasing sing-along of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” (“Let’s sing with some freaking spirit, please”), she was on fire in head-to-toe leather with a bright red dreadlock wig that looked like she swiped it from Cher’s closet.
Cher, meanwhile, seemed to perform nearly every song in a different costume, changing during interludes that featured dancers and aerialists; footage highlighting her years with Sonny Bono, her Oscar-winning films, her various eras and fashion statements; and her band raging through instrumentals like “Bang Bang.”
With Cher, the costumes are half the fun. She went mod for her tribute to Sonny Bono, during which they sang a duet of “I Got You Babe” (with her late partner chiming in via video). She played a fortune teller for “Dark Lady” and “Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves” amid an elaborate vintage circus set, and soared through the crowd looking as if she’d stepped from a Raphaelite painting during the closer of “I Hope You Find It.”
She donned the famous black see-through negligee-inspired one-piece from the “If I Could Turn Back Time” video. She strutted and even skipped in those thigh-climbing black boots during it and “I Found Someone.” (I bet she never thought she’d still be wearing that number 25 years after she first slipped into it.)
The sexiest outfit was a skimpy dress of silver cords that barely covered her breasts, which were hidden by a film of fabric and heart-shaped pasties.
She proved as capable a singer as Lauper, and was at her best belting it out on songs like “Walking in Memphis” and “Just Like Jesse James.” She didn’t dance much, but by late in the set – when she emerged from a Trojan horse like a disco Helen of Troy belting “Take It Like a Man” – she seemed to revel in it all.
As much as Cher played the over-the-top Vegas diva, what fans really like about her is when she gets real. For all the plastic surgery, skin, men, and incredible acting credits, Cher came off as pretty normal.
She prefaced “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” by saying some nights it didn’t go so well (it went fine) and revealed that she had second thoughts about “trotting out” Bono for “Babe,” but knew he would approve. She even admitted her insecurities about touring in her late 60s.
“How do I outdo myself?” she’d asked herself before the tour. “Go out there, wear silly costumes, sing and be fabulous.” And she was.
Early on, Cher winked as she promised that this was her farewell farewell tour. While most artists are ready to retire by this age, she proved what one fan described as “amazing.” Let’s hope we haven’t actually seen the last of her.