Cher's concert begins with a montage of images of the woman herself through the years – album covers, magazine shoots, television appearances, skits, cave paintings, Cher with black hair, red hair, blonde hair, Cher in a sailor hat, Cher's bum, Cher in the far future watching the heat death of the universe and laughing at the lot of man.
The curtain falls. There’s a backing band on stage and a strange engraved doorway that most likely leads to Cher’s realm, which is paradise. There are stairs rising up either side of the stage and a platform above it. And Cher is descending from the ceiling clinging to a sort of ornate picture window while beneath her, a phalanx of lithe young dancers dressed as Spartan warriors wait.
I’m guessing, to be honest, this is just how Cher enters any room, gig or no gig. Her voice is massive. She is singing Woman’s World, an empowering evocation of female strength, though it’s clear that this is one woman’s world, in particular.
She is dressed like a witchy showgirl, her hair encased in a headpiece made from the wings of a 1000-crows. She looks a little like a goth Wonder Woman but she is better than Wonder Woman. For she is Cher. Her warrior retinue perform an elaborate shield-wielding dance to the ancient disco beats of the classical world (specifically, Strong Enough).
Cher then tells a hilarious story about her 40th birthday, 33 years ago, that involves Witches of Eastwick director George Miller being horrible, a $28,000 debt, the owner of Studio 54, Cher calling David Letterman an asshole on live television, some feminist empowerment and a few jokes about her age. It concludes with the phrase "What's your granny doing tonight?"
Now, what this granny is doing is retreating momentarily before emerging in a Bollywood themed costume atop an animatronic elephant. Again, I imagine this is just one of the ways Cher typically enters a room. She descends from the animatronic elephant for pop banger All or Nothing and dances joyously with her now colourfully garbed pals, who are, in case I forget to mention it, very good dancers.
Archive footage of Cher with her old beau Sonny heralds a hippified costume change for Cher who now has bangs in her hair and rainbow flares and sings The Beat Goes On followed by an oddly moving duet of I Got you Babe with a video of her late husband.
After this there are sexy dance shenanigans to behold. Cher appears like the dominatrix madam of a reasonably-priced bordello and belts out Welcome to Burlesque and everyone has a nice writhe around the stage before departing once more.
Two aerialists spin and dance gracefully and a little terrifyingly to a recording of the countrified Lie to Me, before Cher, now dressed in a purple velour jump suit and a blonde wig, sings three Abba songs: Waterloo, SOS and Fernando.
I am certainly going to lose track of how many costume changes there are. The first gig I ever went to was the Saw Doctors, and that did not prepare me for this.
What next? Oh I don't know, how about Cher donning golden robes and a halo (possibly a prop, possibly just her actual halo) for her emotional Peter Cetera duet After All, followed by a rendition of Walking in Memphis, to a moving streetscape of a lightly Cher-i-fied Memphis.
Then there’s a montage of her various film appearances followed by a 1950s-themed rendition of gibberish doo-wop banger The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in his Kiss) from the film Mermaids.
There’s more. A wild rock guitarist is let loose on stage and he rears up like a stallion, waving his leonine hair and riffing and shredding away until Cher joins him, now in thigh-high boots, a leather jacket and glittering lingerie. Basically, it’s that outfit you were told was inappropriate for the workplace. Sadly, you are not Cher.
Cher sings her anthemic soft-rock gem I Found Someone, sporadically leaning against the guitarist as though that is his purpose (it surely is one of his purposes). Then she sings If I Could Turn Back Time, and it’s amazing and possibly does turn back time before ending with the hirsute string wrangler doing an extended wig-out guitar outro.
Cher emerges one last time, now in casual club gear and a red wig, to sing the vocodered pop genius of Believe, while her dancers and aerialists once more demonstrate that humankind have evolved new joints and the beaming band lock into its high-energy groove.
Do I believe in life after love? I’m willing to believe anything Cher tells me at this point. She sounds incredible, is warm and charming and calm in a way that belies the nutty grandeur of the costumes, sets and choreography, and, well, you’ve got to ask yourself: what is your granny doing tonight?