Story and Photos By Andy ArgyrakisAround this time last year, Bette Midler's "Kiss My Brass" tour opened its doors for the first time at Chicago's United Center. From then until now, the show has earned rave reviews from coast to coast and sold out some of the largest concert halls across the country. In fact, the veteran entertainer recently returned to that very venue, along with sister city Moline for a reprise of that spectacle, which comes on the heels of last year's specialty CD Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook. The recording reunites Midler with long time collaborator Barry Manilow, who serves behind the boards as producer and even lends a few backing lines along the way.
Aside from sprinkling in a few of those selections (like "Tenderly") and tipping her hat at the man who writes the songs that make the whole world sing, Midler stuck to many of the hits that have made her famous over the years. But more than just crooning through each delicate note that was backed by her spacious band, several female songbirds and cabaret styled dancers, she also delivered with glitz, glamour and spectacle. Midler's entrance was grand, coming down from the ceiling on a carousel horse to which she saluted the crowd with a wink and the tossing of her curly golden locks.
Though there would be an array of scenery and outfit changes, it was the diva's voice that has truly stood the test of time and was the main asset of the engagement. Take for example the star's cornerstone cut, "Wind Beneath My Wings," which was executed with all the orchestral grandeur and majesty of its heyday, but most importantly, with each crystal clear note delivered right on target. For the equally memorable "From a Distance," Midler even updated the early 90s arrangement, encompassing a lush swelling strut that she still towered over with a rivalable range. Other career favorites were plentiful, from the Vegas framed "Chapel of Love" to the gentle joy of "When a Man Loves a Women." Even with all those acrobatics, Midler still mustered up enough might to nail her quintessential cut "The Rose," bringing tears to the eyes of many audience members as scenes from the movie of the same name flashed above on the giant screens.
Beyond just the songs, another element to the "Kiss My Brass" tour was the skits, which to those who've seen Midler before are a welcome treat, but to first timers could prove to be tedious. Part of the superstar's 70s appeal was her ability to incorporate comedy into performances, which ranged from light hearted to brash to all out bawdy. Though die-hards would probably beg to differ, she would have probably been better off unveiling a few more of the Clooney cuts (which she marvelously delivers on record) or some of the excluded tracks from her "Experience the Divine" retrospective collection. Still, the two-act engagement provided a full evening's worth of amusement, that in a market dominated by drowsy nostalgic farewells (Cher, Phil Collins) provided sweet memories and untainted melodies.
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