Cher Turns Back Time at Barclays Center: Concert Review

Cher Barclays 2014 S
Paul Familetti
After a spectacular show, this better not be her farewell tour.

The legendary performer delivers fashion and fabulousness during a dazzling arena extravaganza.

To borrow a phrase from one of her biggest hits, Cher managed to turn back time in her show at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Friday night, part of her appropriately titled Dressed to Kill tour. The legendary performer, soon to turn 68, somehow manages to look and sound as fabulous as she did in her prime. Yes, she’s had some help along the way. But you can’t fake the powerful vocals and dynamic energy she exhibited in her career-spanning show that can only be described in one word -- fabulous.

Although she recently parted with Bob Mackie, her fashion designer for over four decades, the loss was not apparent in the evening that featured nearly a dozen costume changes. From the giant feathered headdress and sheer pantsuit she sported in the opening number, “Woman’s World” to the gladiator-styled outfit for “Take It Like a Man” to the only slightly more demure variation of the body stocking she wore in the classic “If I Could Turn Back Time” video -- “I can still get into my outfit, at almost 100,” she joked -- the star delivered a dazzling fashion show complete with equally lavish multi-colored wigs.

Ever the diva, Cher knows how to make an entrance. In this case it was suddenly appearing on top of a 20-foot column that slowly descended to the stage, with the star later joking that she was only prevented from falling to her death by “dental floss.” She also knows how to make an exit -- the closing number, “I Hope You Find It,” had her flying to the furthest reaches of the cavernous arena on a glittery throne, giving her fans in the (relatively) cheap seats the opportunity for an up-close-and-personal look.

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She mined her past to crowd-pleasing effect, most notably in a segment devoted to her Sonny & Cher days that began with a video montage of the pair clowning around on their eponymous television show and included renditions of “The Beat Goes On” and “I Got You Babe.” The latter featured her singing a duet with her late former partner via a well-edited video, the effect of which was far more sentimentally appealing than ghoulish. She also performed her campy, ‘70s-era hits “Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves,” “Dark Lady” and “Half Breed” in quick succession, each accompanied by thematically appropriate production numbers.

The evening was large on spectacle, with dancers and acrobats performing elaborate Cirque du Soleil-style routines that dazzled the crowd during the frequent costume changes, and such moments as Cher emerging from a giant Trojan horse. But the performer shined in the quieter moments as well, showcasing her still-powerful voice on impassioned versions of “Walking in Memphis” (in a tribute to Elvis Presley) and “Just Like Jesse James.”

She also let the audience know that she was all too aware of the incongruity of a woman her age still prancing around in skimpy outfits, asking “And what is your granny doing this evening?” and mock-complaining about the show’s physical demands: “What’s my life compared to your happiness?”

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She also made several references to this being her farewell tour, commenting that a good portion of the audience would be dead by the time she came back. But her furious winking while she did so provided hope that this would not be her last go-around.

Cyndi Lauper proved the perfect opening act, delivering an hourlong set that began with the singer, sporting a wild, flame-red wig of flowing tresses, reaching the stage by walking through the crowd like a boxer heading to the ring. Celebrating the 30th anniversary of her classic album She’s So Unusual, she sang such hits as “Time After Time,” “She Bop” and “Money Changes Everything” in her still booming voice. After a lengthy heartfelt monologue about her Tony Award-winning musical Kinky Boots, she performed a thumping, dance-style version of that show’s “Sex is in the Heels.”

But the scene that most thrilled the crowd was when she was joined onstage by Rosie O’Donnell and Liza Minnelli, with the pair gamely singing backup vocals on “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”

“And you thought it was exciting when Jay Z came out with Beyonce,” O’Donnell joked, in one of those only-in-New York moments.

Set List:

Woman’s World
Strong Enough
Dressed to Kill
The Beat Goes On
I Got You Babe
Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves
Dark Lady
Welcome to Burlesque
You Haven’t See the Last of Me
Take It Like a Man
Walking in Memphis
Just Like Jesse James
Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) -- band only
I Found Someone
I Hope You Find It