WORTH A LOOK?: ****1/2
WHERE: The O2
Setlist: Divine Intervention; I Look Good; I’ve Still Got My Health; Do You Wanna Dance; Throw It Away; Tell Him; Bei Mir Bist Du Schon; Waterfalls; Everybody Knows; I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today; I Put A Spell On You; Yakety Sax; Bird In The Hand; Visit From Soph; Beast Of Burden; Spring Can Really Hurt You The Most; The Rose; From A Distance; Stay With Me; Wind Beneath My Wings; Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy; Friends.
Chances to see Bette Midler in the UK don’t present themselves too often. Her last gig here before this six-date tour was at London’s Palladium in the 70s.
The Divine Miss M turns 70 in December and you really wouldn’t guess it from a two-and-a-half hour set during which she is rarely off stage. In fact the biggest clue to her longevity would be the audience which wouldn’t be out of place on the set of Cocoon. A topic Bette addresses herself with an early ’50 shades of grey’ reference as she looks out into the vast arena.
In many ways Miss Midler’s shtick is essentially old school. monstagigz is reminded of Dolly Parton because both included the Benny Hill theme (Yakety Sax) in their recent sets although the differences couldn’t be more clear. There was some doubt whether Dolly was singing live during her last tour and Bette most definitely is here, displaying a hugely impressive belt. Bette is also part stand-up comedienne poking fun at herself, her audience, social media and celebrities including Jeremy Clarkson.
What she does brilliantly could be dismissed as old school cabaret and she’s never written her own songs (as Dolly does), preferring instead to revive old favourites from such a broad range. I certainly wasn’t expecting to hear Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows.
monstagigz highlight was the re-creation of I’ve Put A Spell On You (see clip above) from film Hocus Pocus because it was so well done, so much fun and stood out in a predominantly mid-paced set. By the end we’d had all the big ballads she’s most renowned for from a set likely to include most of what her most ardent fans were looking for.
Will we see her live in the UK again? She certainly spoke fondly of London and, while you wouldn’t want to bet against it, this tour had all the hallmarks for us of a farewell at the pinnacle of her game.