The Easter and Passover timing was coincidental: Cher doesn’t need it to be a holy weekend to make an entrance as if she’s a religious icon come to life.
The 72-year-old singer who markets herself as the “Goddess of Pop” appears every night on her “Here We Go Again” tour as she did Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center: Lowered from the heavens on her own private mini-altar dressed in a shimmering gold bodice with a warrior princess’ crown atop her head.
Below her, a team of dancers dressed as Roman centurions awaited their monarch, as did a gay-and-straight date night crowd who gave her a rapturous reception as she belted out her 2013 feminist EDM anthem “Woman’s World.”
Perseverance was a theme throughout the evening, which, yes, included the diva born Cherilyn Sarkisian riding atop an animatronic elephant during a “Gayatri Mantra” Buddhist-themed segment and a prerecorded interlude in which she talked about being influenced by Hank Williams, Tito Puente and Elvis Presley. There were clips of Cher performing as an Elvis impersonator known as – what else? – Chelvis, followed by a cover of Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis.”
During a spoken monologue early in the cheerfully diverting evening, the Oscar-winning actress talked about her 1960s musical beginnings with her first husband, Sonny Bono, mentioned her Moonstruck co-star Nicolas Cage, who she looked better than at the time even at 17 years his senior, she noted, and dragged Jack Nicholson for believing she was not sexy enough to play opposite her in The Witches of Eastwick.
She also seemed genuinely incredulous that at this stage – 54 years after “I Got You Babe” – she‘s selling out sports arenas. That is indeed impressive, and speaks of the pent-up demand among her multigenerational audience to see her full-scale world tour since she finished off her “Living Proof: The Farewell Tour” in 2005.
Cher joked about her coming back around again and again during a two-song bell-bottomed duet set as a brunette with the late Bono, quipping that she decided to do “Babe” this time, rather than wait for “my next farewell tour.”
Her endurance resonated with the audience. It was rewarded with three blond-wigged ABBA covers, and a rendition of “If I Could Turn Back Time” in which she wore a facsimile of the skimpy outfit that scandalized MTV in the 1989 video filmed on the USS Missouri (dressing as a sailor is popular Cher concert-going attire). Trapeze artist-dancers floated high above the stage during the “Believe” grand finale.
Backed by a five-piece band, Cher’s husky contralto sounded strong throughout. Quibbles: The were so many costume-change breaks that the star was probably missing for 20 of the total 90 minutes. The “Welcome to Burlesque” set piece from her 2010 movie with Christina Aguilera was an uninvolving space taker that could have been better devoted to her 1970s solo hits. Who wants to see Cher and not hear “Half-Breed” and “Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves”? Disappointing.
The evening got off to a lively start with Nile Rodgers & Chic, the current band name of disco and funk innovators. Guitarist Rodgers had cofounded Chic with the late bass player Bernard Edwards. Rodgers’ guitar has shaped multiple generations of dance music, from elemental Chic hits “Le Freak” and “Good Times” and Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” (a showcase for singer Kimberly Davis), to David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”
The latter was preceded by the 66-year-old songwriter celebrating being cancer-free, and he also earned a rousing ovation by giving credit to Philadelphia radio station WDAS-FM (105.3) for playing a crucial role in jump-starting Chic’s career.