With the odd smell of corned beef and cabbage hanging in the air of the Gund Arena, Cher staged a full-on multimedia show every bit as big as her formidable image. Surrounded by a squadron of dancer/acrobats, chameleon stage backdrops, and career-spanning video montages, a candid, personable Cher appeared entirely at ease with herself on stage, as she marched through three decades of hits. Less of a concert, the event was more like Cher: The Musical, starring none other than Madame Cheekbones herself.
Cher skipped on the "Sonny &"-era tunes and wisely dispensed with the lingering '70s kitsch "Half Breed," "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves" in a quick medley. Happily, the Hollywood Injun drum cadence survived intact for "Half Breed." Disappointingly, no live horse on stage.
Mixed in with her parade of covers (including the interesting opener, U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"), Cher devoted her set to her '80s power pop and '90s club tunes. For all the middle-aged women in the crowd, Cher kept the divorcée/survivor songs coming, singing about sleeping alone, taking away the heartache, turning back time, life after love, and suchwhat. And for the Cher-devoted, the $50 ticket-buying audience-at-large, she changed snazzy dresses a shade faster than Queen Amidala.
Though silly at moments and somewhat egomaniacal at others (like, for example, the five-minute-long, all-Cher video montages), the entertaining show had few dead spaces, and from the opening Mad Max/Rent/Cats-like dance routines to the sparkling silver disco-ball/Moonraker finish, came off rather well. Oh, the glamour!
Cyndi Lauper's mildly grating presence the ADD stage demeanor, the Betty Boop voice made one long for Cher's entrance every so often. But the set wasn't all bad. Making a decent case for her presence on stage, years after peak popularity, Lauper populated her set with her more recent Celtic-pop tunes heavy in the percussion and acoustic guitars, and topped off with a violinist. Her resolve would soon crumble. Capitulating in a quick encore, Lauper dragged out the warhorse a rather limp, reggae version of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." Aaron Steinberg
The Kinks weren't the most popular of the British Invasion acts, but their fans are some of the most loyal. The Kinks, after all, are a relatively demanding band. Early in their career they were forbidden from touring in the U.S. In the '70s, the band cut a spate of concept albums (some successful, others not) steeped in nostalgia and odd wonderings. Brothers Ray and Dave could feud with the Everlys. Having stuck with the band through it all, Kinkologists take a certain pride.
Dave Davies treated the small but enthusiastic crowd at the Agora Ballroom with a set of Kinks classics, lesser-known beauties, and his solo work. Wearing black pants and a loose-fitting black shirt, Davies and his simple back-up band (guitar, bass, drums) opened on a lively note with "Till the End of the Day." The early portion of the set was dominated by Ray-composed, early Kink tunes like "I Need You," "Set Me Free," and "See My Friends." There were a few wobbly moments (bands on the Ramada Inn circuit have turned in better versions of "Tired of Waiting") and Dave's high-pitched voice lacks Ray's wry detachment, but Davies the Younger compensated with spirit.
The middle third was Dave's turn to show his songwriting skills ("Unfinished Business," "Imagination's Real," "Strangers"). The obvious conclusion to draw was that Dave is a good songwriter in a band with a great one. His material, though is not a knockoff of his brother's; it's more of a knockoff of Paul McCartney's.
While his demeanor was friendly, Davies didn't chat much with the audience. Before "Living on a Thin Line," one fan offered him a British flag; another presented him with flowers. Even before the crowd-pleasing encore of "Like Everybody Else," "Father Christmas," and "You Really Got Me," many in the audience were wearing satisfied grins on their faces, as if watching a nephew cross the commencement stage, their loyalty and patience rewarded.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's Jellybricks were an appropriate opening act. The band, which visits Cleveland frequently, plays power pop in the vein of the Goo Goo Dollsbefore Johnny Rzeznik became a heartthrobor a less arty Fountains of Wayne. David Martin
The J. Geils Band
Any child conceived the night of the last Cleveland appearance of the J. Geils Band and anyone who ever tailgated at the pasture formerly known as the Coliseum knows that such conceptions are more than a possibility is now preparing for his or her senior year in high school. That mind-boggling fact underscores not only the long amount of time between tours for the Geils Band, but also the degree of uncertainty that accompanied the return of a group that burned down in the hot light of MTV.
Things were understandably electric as the giant curtain dropped and the long-buried soul survivors flashed back to life. Punching into "Just Can't Stop," it was evident that the elements that always made the Geils Band go its back-alley swagger, its surging R&B chops were well intact. Magic Dick, Seth Justman, and Geils himself were all remarkably tight, despite the layoff.
While the first hour of music was fast and fun (only "Freeze-Frame" seemed ragged and out of place), the crowd of 9,000 was not partying half as much as the music. It was the difference between hanging bar-side at a low-down joint or sitting in a folding chair and rushing out into hallways to buy a beer, giant videoscreens of Campbell's Soup Champions on Ice promos flashing while you wait in line.
But Peter Wolf was unrelenting, dishing out his preacher jive while he shuffled back and forth across the stage. His humorous stories and a wild run through "Just Can't Wait," "Give It to Me," and "Must of Got Lost" dragged the crowd back to the old street corner.
It was a party from that point on: some guy stage right stripping down to his purple Speedo, a bevy of drunk dancers, and Wolf apparently slicing open his hand on a thorn while throwing a rose during "Love Stinks." Three encores later, it was last call. The faithful were treated to a reminder of what mainstream rock and roll has lost in the corporate years: band and crowd on equal ground. Tim Piai