Cher is a bit of a contradiction. The actress/musician is very fond of grand statements, elegant costumes, and soaring songs. But at the same time, she’s also disarmingly down to earth.
Both sides of the world’s first modern pop diva were on display over the weekend as Cher brought her Classic Cher show to MGM National Harbor for a run of six dates ending Sunday, March 26. She reprises the residency for another six dates at the end of this summer.
Cher took to the stage to perform “Woman’s World” from her 2013 album Closer to the Truth to start the show. She dressed as a Cleopatra figure with 10 dancers in faux Roman regalia as she sings and they dance. Before long, the Roman set gave way to an Indian set, and Cher sang “All or Nothing” from her 1998 hit album Believe.
Costume changes and scenery swaps followed throughout the evening upon a simply designed stage, made for quickly rotating facades that supported cinematic touches. But when the flash slowed, the woman remained — poised, comfortable, happy. And she talked to more than 3,000 people in a very nearly sold-out show on Thursday night as if she was merely lounging on a chaise across the table from you.
When Cher talked, she talked like she was sharing with a friend. She told the audience the tale of when she turned 40, and how she was chasing a guy in a nightclub, describing it to us like we were her intimate friends. Then, after striking out, the next morning brought another headache when director George Miller called to debate her casting in Witches of Eastwick with her because Jack Nicholson thought she was too old for the movie.
That morning, a fabulous birthday cake lifted her spirits, and she later derived some satisfaction of booking herself onto David Letterman’s talk show only to inform him that he was “an asshole.” Cher shared the sentiment with satisfaction, although she and Letterman clearly patched things up after that rough start in 1986.
After bringing the thousands of us in the room into her circle of confidants, Cher hurled us back in time to recap career highlights in an entertaining and lively show. The scenery flipped to a pop culture concept of the ’60s, and the dancers wore mod rags while Cher sang “The Beat Goes On.”
Cher took the opportunity of course to talk about Sonny Bono, and the earnest affection in her voice told us more than her actual words. She then sang a duet with an old recording of Sonny for “I Got You Babe,” and Sonny flickered on and off the screen as if perhaps his spirit had indeed blessed the room.
Before we could catch a breath, Cher summoned a carnival set. With another costume change, she stood before the audience clad appropriately for “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” given a medley with “Dark Lady.” She followed it up with the #1 hit “Half-Breed.” If the audience hadn’t already noticed, they now take note of the excellent five-piece band playing superbly throughout the show.
Now halfway through the concert, Cher does not slow down at all. Rather, she turned it up a notch by flipping the set to a cabaret and performing “Welcome to Burlesque.”
Soon, Cher reflected on her love of Elvis, and how her mother imbued her with her love of music generally and the Man from Mississippi specifically. We’ve become her intimates again. The memories make her happy, and we feel like we’ve learned something about our friend. She surprised a bit next however with a cover of “Walking in Memphis” by Marc Cohn. Appropriate perhaps given that love letter to Memphis, Tennessee, and its bow to Elvis, but we were still surprised to hear it nonetheless.
As she moved to close the show, Cher had one more set change for us, and a Memphis set dissolves into a ’50s diner, where Cher performed her famous cover of “The Shoop Shoop Song” by Betty Everett. Now that we are in the ’80s, by the measure of Cher’s career at any rate, she also belted “If I Could Turn Back Time” with a vigor that would convince you that she had done so!
After Cher vacated the stage, the audience successfully called for an encore, which of course she delivered with the megahit “Believe” from 1998.
Cher has flown back to Las Vegas, but she will return to MGM National Harbor for six more shows in 2017 on Aug. 31 and Sept. 2, 3, 7, 9, and 10. The transfer of her MGM residency to our nearby MGM National Harbor was a resounding success with a jubilant star and eager audiences. Don’t miss out on the show when Cher returns — it’s a rare opportunity to experience a big show by the world’s most enduring pop chanteuse in a truly intimate setting.
You too will believe in life after love.
(Photos above courtesy Cher, taken from her Classic Cher show in its Las Vegas residency.)