- The Washington Times - Monday, July 1, 2002

If Cher really means to retire from touring, at least she is going out with a bang. Her "farewell" show at the MCI Center Saturday night was pure spectacle, two hours of death-defying acrobatics, flashy costumes and, oh yeah, singing. Just her image, projected on video screens over the arena in Orwellian fashion, was enough to bring the crowd to its feet. When the curtains lifted to reveal her band on a two-tiered stage, Cher was suspended over it all, posing inside a giant chandelier.
To make sure you got the point that she's music royalty, she descended wearing a crown and a gaudy fur coat. Two dancers dressed as handmaidens made off with her regal accessories before she launched into a cover of U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."
"How about that entrance?" she later quipped to the audience. "Let J-Lo and Britney [Spears] follow that."
It was a good reminder that Cher is known for her performing ability far more than her songwriting skills. She excels at transforming others' material into her own brand of dramatic pop. Even so, her song selection is nothing compared with her throaty delivery.
For the early part of the show and the closing numbers, the MCI Center looked more like a Cher dance night at a packed night club that happened to actually feature Cher on lead vocals, with flashing lights, thumping techno beats and her voice soaring above the backup dancers and the constant video effects on three screens overhead.
No wonder she's become a modern club icon.
Her newer material, especially "Song for the Lonely" and "Different Kind of Love Song" from this year's "Living Proof" are pure dance-floor numbers, with their heavy drum and bass beats.
As much is likely to be written about her costumes as her singing on this tour. What other 56-year-old woman can pull off boldly striding on stage wearing sparkly underwear that leaves little to the imagination? There might be a lot of makeover magic going on behind the scenes, but the result is that Cher looks every bit as stunning as she did in the 1960s and '70s.
"Not gaudy, always tasteful," she joked about her show early on, explaining that much of the theatrics wouldn't fit the songs but would be fun anyway. Boy was she right. Whether her backup dancers were dressed like the cast of "Cats," recreating the Indian-style finale of the film "Moulin Rouge" (with a full-scale elephant puppet) or performing aerial tricks a la Cirque du Soleil using little more than strong strands of cloth, there was never a dull visual moment.
"If I weren't in it, I would want to see it," Cher told the crowd, as she put on a ringmaster's top hat, cracked a whip and promised fans the "Cherest Show on Earth."
A woman who once wished she could turn back time, she pulled off a pretty amazing time traveling feat. After her foray into club culture, she returned to her classic '60s look, of straight dark hair, purple bell-bottoms and a fur shoulder wrap.
The video screen played clips from two decades of performances, including duets with her late ex-husband Sonny Bono for "The Beat Goes On" and "I Got You Babe."
From there it was a medley of the biggest hits of her early solo career, including her take on Bob Dylan's "All I Really Want to Do," "Half Breed," "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" and "Dark Lady."
As film clips from her movie career rolled (including "Silkwood," "Mask," and "Moonstruck," in addition to her Oscar acceptance speech), she became a blonde, with her trademark '80s poofy permed hair, blue jeans and a simple white blouse.
She even indulged her audience by sitting on a stool toward the end of the set to sing "a song I never liked. That's right. There's some songs I don't like."
It turned out be to her 1989 hit "Just Like Jesse James," a song that took off unlike her professed favorite from the same album, "Heart of Stone," which she sang immediately afterward.
She brought the audience back to the modern era with "If I Could Turn Back Time" and "Strong Enough," before emerging for an encore of "Believe," by dropping again from the ceiling in a disco-ball contraption, wearing a silver jumpsuit clearly relishing her newfound role as dancing queen. If this is truly the end of her career, she is determined to go out in a blaze of glory.
Anyone sharing a bill with Cher has to know that being upstaged is practically a rider in the contract, but Cyndi Lauper surprisingly held her own. She wandered into the audience three times during her 40-minute set and emerged for two encores, an almost unheard of practice for an opening act.
Miss Lauper proved definitively why she became one of MTV's early stars as she launched into her familiar hits and even some new material with all the gusto of a woman hoping to make it on "American Idol."
Wearing black pinstripe pants and a billowy white blouse, and her familiar crop of short, blond spiky hair, she let the audience swarm about her several times during the opening "Change of Heart."
She draped herself in a rainbow flag to enormous cheers during "True Colors," flopped on the stage and hung her head over it backward for new tune "It's Hard to Be Me" and charged across the stage for "Money Changes Everything."
Of course "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" brought the arena to its feet in a giant singalong, hand-waving fest, but her rather earnest and straightforward cover of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" closed out her set. She obviously couldn't compete with Cher, but for a younger generation, she brings back the same glowing nostalgia as clips of the "Sonny and Cher" show. Let's hope it's not her farewell tour as well.

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