Friday, May 16, 2008

"It's A Cher Thing, You Just Don't Understand"

Help! I'm being beaten up by Cher fanatics who are offended by being referred to as fanatics or crazies but who prove their fanaticism and craziness by their certainty that nothing she did in her new Vegas show could possibly be grounds for criticism!

But first. A few others have now chimed in on the new show at the Colosseum that I was sorely disappointed by. I blogged some of it last week after I attended opening night and wrote a longer version for my column in this week's Las Vegas Weekly.

Mike Weatherford of the R-J gave this hot mess a B, but it was a lukewarm B at that: "This show, a continuation of her touring opuses of the 2000s, takes the format to its logical peak (and hopefully its conclusion)." He also points out that it's "front-loaded," giving us the best effect, costume and star banter in the very beginning.

Meanwhile, Joe Brown of the Las Vegas Sun took a similar tack: Cher "
provides everything you could want from a Cher show. She makes Cher sounds. She changes costumes and wigs after nearly every number (take your time, we’ll wait). There’s hair-tossing, hip-cocking, lip-licking, arm-crossing, eye-rolling, finger-snapping, skipping and sauntering Is it good? Does it matter?"

Neither main Vegas critic is particularly enthusiastic. No, that's left to, of all people, longtime Rolling Stone scribe and L.A. Times blogger Richard Abowitz, my friend and someone I've already needled quite a bit for this posting. Abowitz tried to tell me that his take on this thing wasn't as positive as Brown or Weatherford, but he actually wrote this Cher-style over-the-top sentence: "Cher has created a monstrously entertaining experience that (even more than "A New Day," which actually relied on a Cirque alumnae) captures a sort of ultimate state-of-the-art Vegas production show and places that in the midst of a Cher concert of resplendent diva glory." [Note from the grammar police: alumnae is plural. I think he meant alumnus, since that's a singular male form and he's referring to Franco Dragone.]

I don't know if any of them are going to get the sort of angry mail that I'm starting to receive from Cheristas for mocking their, uh, enthusiasm while taking stock of seriously flawed parts of one of the Strip's most expensive shows.

You see, Weatherford, Brown and Abowitz approached their commentaries from the point of view that this is Cher, there are certain expectations in that construct and those who love her will love this. It's a reasonable approach. Except that I'm not contented with the premise that the public's view of this thing is predetermined by their adoration or hatred of the star. There ARE many who are on the fence. I am living proof of that. If I were in Vegas for vacation and I was looking around at what's on, I *might* check out the Cher-Vegas thing even if I'm not the sort of gay who decorates sailor hats or the sort of groupie who knows what kind of tree Sonny Bono died slamming into.

That notion apparently offends those Cher crazies who attack the very notion of the more casual fan or audience member. One wrote: "
Who really should be catered to most, the dedicated fans who have supported Cher's career throughout the decades or Las Vegas visitors who have nothing better to do than take in a Cher show so they can say they saw it? I ... am very sorry you don't fully appreciate what Cher is all about."

The most significant critique of my nerve in approaching this from an outside-the-cult angle came from a woman who operates a popular Cher list-serv. I was nervous going into covering this thing for USA Today that I might not be able to identify all the songs, so I had gotten her phone number to call later that night in case I needed it. Turned out, I didn't. There were only a few songs I didn't recognize and I just didn't write about those.

I can just imagine what sort of outrage I've sparked on this list-serv from the beleaguered, put-upon Cher fans who, like their role model, are evidently so badly misunderstood.

Here's some of her lengthy note:

"I take your comments as personal attacks towards Cher fans as a whole. It's not uncommon to receive criticism. Over the years, both Cher and her fans have been degraded, but we all keep going strong. I just felt like, I needed to speak on behalf of all fans and let you know how we felt.

You, in my honest opinion, were lost. You had no clue what the name of any of the songs were and even asked to call me after the show to get the set list. I missed your call. I have to admit, after reading this review, I am glad that I did. Lord only knows, what you would have said about me just because I knew the names of the songs.

We use the phrase, "It's a Cher thing, you just don't understand." It's probably the best way to describe how we feel. There are not many who get it. It's a passion, Steve. Just like you may have a passion for sports for example.
[I don't. -sf] Many of us have grown up with Cher. We have been there since the beginning. We have watched her grow and mature. We have watched her succeed and fail. No matter what we watched, we have loved it all. That is probably the only statement in your review that is correct: "The most vocal Cher fans won’t criticize a thing."

Sure we know there were glitches in the show. It just opened. There are going to be glitches in every show. Cher is real Steve, and she sings live unlike many. The glitches show that she is not perfect. No one is. We can relate to her more so because of this."

I had engaged in some hyperbole in my piece about the extremes to which the most devoted go to see their idol. It was taken literally by many who wrote. More from the list-serv manager:

"As far as 'crazy Cher fanatics' mortgaging their homes, did they tell you this? Geez, I don't know one die-hard who is homeless. Sure we will take on many shows during her three year run. Many of us, will take on as many as we can. We save for these shows and go when our budget allows, just like you may save for something you want to do. Once again, it goes back to our passion.

Obvious Caesars believes that Cher has achieved that certain level of greatness required to perform at the Colosseum.If they thought she would be degrading to the Colosseum, do you honestly think they would have let her headline there?

Others that have performed there are great and I am in no way belittling them. The truth, however, is that everyone is different. Cher is Cher. She will always be Cher and she will perform how she wants to perform. This is no secret. Anyone who has had the honor of seeing her perform knows the style of her shows. Caesars obviously knew this when they brought her on board. Therefore, no one should be surprised at her performances."

But here's the real point, and the reason why these people's opinions are so irrelevant to non-Kool-Aid drinkers:

"The Colosseum leaves quite a bit to be desired. It might be grand as you call it, but the crowd that goes there really doesn't care what the performer is about. They are basically high rollers with a comp. They are rude and obnoxious. They are just there to see the show because they have received a free ticket. In my opinion, they are just taking up space. There is a difference between the high rollers and the die-hards. We actually want those seats! We want to be in the presence of Cher."

For the sake of the Colosseum, I do hope that there are enough people like this to fill 4,200 seats 200 times over the next three years. There probably are. But the real chip on the shoulder does not belong to those of us who can look objectively at an artist and a show and see room for improvement. The real chip belongs to those who believe that if you cannot accept The Gospel According to Cher, you should go find another church.


Anonymous said...


I think you're right to have directed your Cher review towards the person who might be on the fence. It is a huge room after all.

I'm probably exactly the type you were thinking of. Not a big Cher fan, but don't hate her. Would be willing to catch her show if the price is right and hope to be entertained.

But based on what you've said, will probably spend my hard earned money on a different show instead. You've probably saved me some cash that I'll spend elsewhere. Thanks.


Amy said...

Like ST, I'm probably smack dab in the middle of your review's audience. I watched the Sonny and Cher Show in my childhood, I can hum her biggest hits, and I appreciate her fame, fashion sense, and her greatest asset: business savvy.

I can't help but compare the Cher announcement to the Bette announcement. My reaction to the news that Bette Midler would be coming to Caesars was an enthusiastic "Oh, yeah!" My reaction to Cher was "OK, I can understand that." I knew that a Bette Midler show would be fun and funny and glamorous and sparkly and, well, entertaining. Cher is an icon, no doubt about it. She's really, really good at being an icon, and I admire her for
still being able to wear those wild costumes. You go, Cher! But I've never paid money to buy any of her music, and I've paid for Bette's music -- on vinyl, cassette, CD, and iTunes, without the feathery, sequiny spectacle -- several times.

My sister is coming to visit in June. Why? Because it's my birthday month. And Bette's coming back. (Happy birthday to me!) I already have the tickets to see Bette's show for a third time, with a third escort. To each his own.

Anonymous said...

Dude, turn in your gay card. You don't get it. Clearly, you hate yourself. You're an embarrassment to all of boner-fide queers.


Dave Lifton said...

This one sentence was the crux of her delusion:

"Cher is real Steve, and she sings live unlike many."

Cher, real? Is there any part of her that isn't plastic these days?

Singing live? Please, this is the woman who rode Autotune into a #1 worldwide hit.

Bay in TN said...

Cher? Seriously? I am going to see Bette! And I might see Spamalot, and if I win a lot of money at blackjack, maybe we can go see Ka or Love. Cher is so far down on my "must see" list, she doesn't even make the first cut, much less the second or third!

Did anyone notice there's a recession? I really can't waste money on a 70's has-been in a Bob Mackie sequined outfit.

LinFromNJ said...

Amen, Bay. I's see LOVE again in a minute if I could afford it. Cher doesn't make the cut.

Anonymous said...

Persecution! I am not now, nor I have I ever been a Cher fan. If I knew the names of any of her fans I would at once turn them into the committee as a patriot loyal to good music. And, I also wrote: "I will tell you there are a lot of bad things to be said about the show called Cher. The reliance on footage you can see on YouTube during costume changes makes for significant drops in energy. Few have mishandled a Bob Dylan cover as inanely as Cher's halfhearted "All I Really Want to Do." A lot of the choreography is hopelessly stuck in the '80s, with flinch-worthy results. And, of course, there was the predictable duet with a video image of Sonny. At close to two hours, the show runs longer than the energy and ideas deserve." But your are totally right to correct my hopeless and hapless grammar. Yrs., Richard Abowitz

antonio said...