Cher's Music Upstaged By Her Fashion Show

The Bradley Center
August 2, 1999

By Tony Bonyata
Photo by Phil Bonyata

It didn't matter if the thousands that flocked to the Bradley Center were looking for outrageous fashion antics, kitschy disco-pop, Vegas-style numbers or just a chance to see one of the few remaining divas of twentieth century pop-culture, because they got the whole enchilada when Cher hit the stage last week in Milwaukee.
Long known for her bizarre fashion sense and even more over-the-top hairdos, Cher didn't disappoint her fans in that department. In fact she often disappeared from the stage only to reemerge looking even more glamorous then before, as her 7-piece band, conveniently tucked to the back and middle of the spacious stage, and elaborately costumed dance troop filled her brief, but frequent costume changes.
Where she did fall short, however, was musically. The show was dominated by cheesy euro-beats and sappy ballads fluffed-up with overwrought, over-choreographed dance numbers that hearkened back to the schtick of her '70's television variety show. While Cher has never been taken seriously as a songbird, her husky, unique voice was, however, a familiar, if not, welcome addition to the empty disco pumping through the stadium walls.
Cher Emerging from the floor from an elevator under the stage, Cher looked like a Florentine gypsy from the Middle Ages with a huge, flowing mane of flame-red hair as she opened with a respectable cover of U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" (no doubt in reference to her long list of failed relationships with men). The following few numbers musically fell flat and were camped-up with dancers dressed as some type of modern primitives along with a group of small, white-robed Star Wars refugees who pulled large burning torchieres out on stage.
On the number 'We All Sleep Alone' Cher appeared in a blue Napoleonic hat and trenchcoat only to strip away the hat to expose her short, jet-black hair, and then broke into the ballad 'Where Is The Love?' which, vocally, saw her at her strongest point of the evening. With Indian pony-tails she performed a fleeting medley of her biggest hits from the '70's, which included "Half Breed", "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" and "Dark Lady", before slipping into something a little more metallic on the number "Take Me Home".
Although a fine actress (Moonstruck, Mask, Silkwood and Witches of Eastwick to name a few), the clips of her movies that flashed on the huge screens seemed out of place in a concert arena.
The rest of the show carried on much the same with Cher changing into everything from baggy, reflective P.J's for the new millennium, to a long sequined Spanish gown to multi-layered bell-bottoms and long, red angel-hair pasta locks. Although her toned figure looked unbelievably great for a woman of 53 her facial features looked almost too perfect, as if all her plastic "touch-ups" through the years left her looking a little unnaturally airbrushed. When she performed her two biggest hits of the '90's "If I Could Turn Back Time" and "Believe" it didn't seem to matter to her fans that they were lackluster and shallow, after all you don't go to the circus for the music.
Opening for Cher was Cyndi Lauper, who is known for her own brand of carnival-esque amusement (early '80's disposable hits, Betty Boop-meets-Cookie The Clown wardrobe and lovably defiant "girls rule" attitude). The evening's twist of fate was that Lauper proved to be the true "artiste" of the evening even though she may now reside in the "where are they now" file. With a powerhouse voice with an unbelievable range that ran from high childish screeches to rich, buttery gospel warblings this '80's "fun girl," with turquoise hair, mini-skirt and clunky yellow pumps, literally brought her music to the masses as she walked through the audience about half-way through the stadium belting out her lyrics on a cordless mic. Lauper performed familiar numbers such as "True Colors", in which the audience accompanied her tender and honest vocals that resounded like an angel in the choir, the burning soul of "Disco Inferno", a more subdued, reggae-ized version of her biggest hit "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" not to mention the cannon-puffed happiness of "Money Changes Everything" which featured a heated cajun-flavored violin.
Cyndi pulled off a strong set that showcased all her bouncy, sultry and impish traits but was ultimately, and unfortunately, upstaged by one-woman fashion show.

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