Best Of '99: Cher Puts On The Glitz

Veteran pop singer plays 'Believe' and other hits in arena show marked by dancing, costume changes and extravagant hair.

[Editor's note: Over the holiday season, SonicNet is looking back at 1999's top stories, chosen by our editors and writers. This story originally ran on Wednesday, July 14.]

NEW YORK — Someone should have told Cher the theater district was

only a few blocks down the street.

The singer and actress, who has been performing for 35 years but enjoyed the biggest

hit of her career just this year, came to Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night with

pop hits, glitz and enough costumes for a modest Broadway musical.

There was sarcasm, too. "As you can see, I'm mature now," the 53-year-old — who

opened the show wearing an ornate Oriental costume, an outrageous red wig and big

earrings — said to the sell-out crowd. "My dress isn't too long; my hair is

conservative."

A six-member dance troupe performed elaborately choreographed numbers to songs

such as "The Power," "Strong Enough" (RealAudio excerpt), "All or Nothing" and

"Dov'e L'Amore," all from Cher's most recent album, Believe (1998), which also

spawned the smash dance-pop single "Believe." The star of the show, doing her best to

outshine the diva competition, changed costumes seven times, going from Asian

princess to shimmery '70s chick to rhinestone cowgirl to Flamenco dancer.

Cher (born Cherilyn LaPier) surveyed a few decades of solo hits, while avoiding any of

the Sonny and Cher material she recorded with her late ex-husband, Sonny Bono, in the

1960s and '70s. She played her 1989 single "If I Could Turn Back Time," a cover of U2's

"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and one-hit-wonder Marc Cohn's "Walking

in Memphis," and "After All," which she originally recorded as a duet with Peter Cetera of

Chicago. On Tuesday, she sang it with her musical director, Paul Mirkovich.

Making clear the spotlight was reserved for just one star, Cher's band was relegated to the

back, hunched together in what looked like a Broadway orchestra pit.

On the video screens behind the stage, montages showed highlights of Cher's career,

from her music and TV work with Bono (they recorded such hits as "I Got You Babe" and

"The Beat Goes On)," through her Academy Award–winning film career and

beyond. Cher, though, didn't seem too awestruck by the sentimentality. She preferred to

converse with the crowd as if she were the gal at the end of the bar on a Wednesday

night.

"This was off an album that bombed," she said, before playing "Walking in Memphis,"

which she released in 1996. "It's a Man's World, which by the way was a good

album. A gigantic big bomb. You know? A gigantic big bomb, infomercials, all that sh--."

No act of theater would be complete without the climax the audience expects. For her

encore, Cher sang "Believe" (RealAudio excerpt), the song that brought her back

into the pop mainstream this year. As two male dancers spun on dangling cords above

the stage, the singer, now in the silver wig she wears in the song's video, danced with

abandon. The electronic effect that distinguishes the single's vocals was there, too. The

crowd seemed delighted.

"She just doesn't change and she stays strong," said Kim McCarthy, 32, who came from

northern New Jersey with friends for the show. It was her third Cher concert.

McCarthy said she is particularly fond of Believe because "it's not as dark as her

last couple of albums."

"All the songs she played were hits," Emily Stein, 42, of New York, said. "Her music was

a big part of my youth, and it still is today."

Stein's husband, Gary Stein Kohl, 41, wasn't as struck, though. "There were too many

distractions and not enough show," he said.