Cher_Planet_Slop_Vicky_Pea_Do_Not_Use_Without_Permission (16)
Cher_Planet_Slop_Vicky_Pea_Do_Not_Use_Without_Permission (16)

Cher: Manchester Arena

There are few people as iconic as Cher. Shaun Ponsonby can’t believe his eyes seeing the Gay Elvis in the flesh.

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By Shaun Ponsonby
Fri 25 October, 2019

About three quarters of the way through Cher’s performance at Manchester Arena – during one of her many costume changes – footage was shown of her impersonating Elvis Presley. She then returned to perform Walking in Memphis, the Marc Cohn song with which she scored a Top 20 hit in 1995.

It was at that point, surrounded by our fellow screaming queens (so many that Grindr threatened to explode), that we were hit by a revelation.

Cher is the gay Elvis.

We’ve been reviewing shows for a long time now, so we can get pretty jaded at times. There aren’t many stars we still scream at. We’ve seen ‘em all, ya’ll.

But our first glance of Cher and we actually gasped. There are some people who aren’t just stars. Cher is a cultural icon above and beyond pretty much anybody else we have ever seen in the flesh. So how do you distil such a storied career into a single 90 minute show?

It was clear early on that she hasn’t brought over a cheapened version of her Vegas shows. This is no expense spared, every bit as big a production as you would find in Sin City. Opening with the dance material that has littered her catalogue for the last two decades, she descends from the top of the stage in what appears to be some kind of elaborate bird cage, as oiled up Roman Soldiers dance beneath her. It is exactly what we came to see.

Things derailed a bit as she told a long, rambling story that kind of went nowhere. It encompassed the time she called David Letterman an “asshole” on his show, a sly dig at Madonna, the time Jack Nicholson said she was “too old” for Witches of Eastwick .

Ultimately, after at least ten minutes, despite all of the laughs and audience reactions, there was no big punchline or real point to the story, other than a final line about all women, no matter what their age, should be inspired to do what they want, when they want. A noble message, but one we could have reached in two minutes rather than ten, or with a more coherent story.

But, you know what? Who cares? She’s Cher, bitch, and all was forgiven when she finally ended by saying; “Anyway, what’s your granny doing tonight?”,  before disappearing from view, only to re-emerge riding a giant mechanical elephant. Even if my granny was still alive, I can honestly say without fear of contradiction, that she wouldn’t have been doing that.

Nor would she have worn a sparkly recreation of the If I Could Turn Back Time outfit with her tattooed buttocks exposed.

For most artists, recreating such looks can come across seeming a little bit midlife crisis-ish. But, aside from the agelessness of Cher, there is a thread of self-awareness that runs through pretty much everything she does, and she mocks herself constantly throughout the show.

When introducing a touching moment in which she duets with footage of her late ex-husband Sonny on I Got You Babe, she jokes that she wasn’t sure whether she wanted to do it. “I thought I’d save it for my next farewell tour. But then, I said to myself ‘Bitch, you’re 500 years old, you better do it now’.”

Even the name of the tour feels like her wry sense of humour. Sure, The Here We Go Again Tour is most likely a reference to her appearance in Mama Mia 2: Here We Go Again, and her subsequent ABBA covers album Dancing Queen that she is ostensibly promoting. But it can just as easily be Cher sending up her many farewell tours and the endless nature of her career.

Speaking of ABBA, that section of the show looked tiresome on paper. There are plenty of Cher classics we would theoretically prefer to hear than Waterloo, SOS and Fernando. But in practice, it ended up hitting the audience with a jolt, and the arena came alive. Her voice, one of the more distinctive in the history of popular music, has retained its power and, more importantly, its unique sound. Strangely it was her belting out Waterloo, successfully making it her own, that this became most obvious.

We probably could have used another few songs to make it a perfect night. In Australia, she was performing Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves and Dark Lady, which were curiously absent tonight. And with the disco vibes of the ABBA section, we were hoping that she would break into Take Me Home.

But she looked perfect and sounded incredible. It isn’t every day that you get to bask in the sheer fabulousness of Cher. We still can’t quite believe it happened.


👇 Photo gallery below by Vicky Pea 👇

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