Bette Midler's 'Divine Intervention': Brilliance, With Occasional Nonsense
Photos by Jack Gorman
May 18, 2015
Bette Midler's "Divine Intervention" show was an odd mix of brilliance and WTF moments. The brilliance came from Midler. Most of the time she was onstage, she was giving a stellar performance (the key phrase there is "most of the time"; more on that in a bit). Every time she left the stage for a costume change, though, the show collapsed into a completely random assortment of uninteresting filler music and, in the case of a dancing egg (we kid you not), absolute nonsense.
One of the first songs in the show was "Do You Wanna Dance." ("This is one of the first songs your grandmother ever heard me sing," she quipped.) It was a lovely rendition of one of her most romantic ballads. In a word, brilliant. Another especially wonderful moment was her slow, sad take on TLC's "Waterfalls" that became a sorrowful anthem perfectly suited for the 69-year-old Midler's slightly lower range. Again, brilliant.
After an unfortunate but blissfully short Hocus Pocus segment (Midler wore a witch costume and buck teeth to sing a meandering "I Put a Spell on You"), she exited stage right and a weird egg appeared stage left. A female dancer eventually popped her legs out the lower half of the egg and danced around to some cartoon music. Definitely a WTF moment.
Another costume change, and Midler returned in a black corset adorned with feathers to sing "A Bird In the Hand (Is Worth Two in the Bush)", and we were still in WTF-land. Thankfully, Midler launched into her Sophie Tucker jokes and the show moved back to brilliant.
The second half of the show was mostly Midler onstage, wearing a red evening gown, mike in hand, standing in the spotlight and singing. No backup dancers, no band members doing embarrassing shtick. Just music. And just brilliant. Her voice tired a little (she's 69 and spent almost two hours onstage; it's understandable), but she pushed through, making up for what she lacked in vocal gymnastic skills with phrasing and emotion. It worked.
She rocked through "Beast of Burden" and double-timed "Miss Otis Regrets" before coming to the evening's highlight, a heartbreaking and yet hopeful version of "The Rose." (That got a well-deserved standing ovation.) Equally touching was "Stay with Me (Baby)." "Wind Beneath My Wings" closed the show, followed by a rousing encore of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy."
"It's been a lot of years since I've been on the road," Midler told the crowd as she said good night. "I forgot how wonderful it is. Thank you all; you've given me a wonderful life." Likewise, Miss M, likewise.
Personal Bias: Anyone who wears a mermaid outfit and zooms around onstage in an electric wheelchair (which Midler did in earlier shows) gets extra points for originality; she hasn't always been graceful onstage, but damn if she ain't been gutsy.
The Crowd: In her opening bit, Midler asked the crowd how many people drove to the concert. When the majority responded with applause, she said, "It's nice to know so many of my fans can still drive at night." Yep, that about sums it up. A good portion of the crowd was more than 60 years old. Sitting behind me was a couple of thirtyish soccer moms (I know because they actually talked about their kids' soccer games) and a seventyish old guy in a dress and wig.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Did Bette Midler just make me cry?" (After Midler's rendition of TLC's "Waterfalls.")
Overheard In the Crowd No. 2: "Is she wearing support stockings?" (Her pantyhose did seem an odd shade and rather opaque, like some support stockings do...just saying.)
Random Notebook Dump: "Why is there a dancing egg in the middle of the Bette Midler concert?"
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