Hollywoo: God, As Presented by Spark Arena

Each week Lachlan Mitchell, glorified tabloid writer, tries to cover up that he is blatantly copying Vanity Fair.

On September 21st, life gained new meaning. Every angel and demon, every deity and demiurge in all the spiritual pantheons stopped their actions – for the ruler of the heavenly spheres had stepped out on stage. The gods were mesmerised. Hera stopped yelling at Zeus. Sobek paused during his meal. And Quetzalcoatl shone a little bit brighter.

It was time. The being walked out on stage. She talked to the flock in front of her for a while, delivering a little monologue about turning 40 and calling David Letterman an arsehole. Then the greatest four lettered deity since YHWH asked one question.

“What is your granny doing tonight?”

Cher had arrived.

The response was unlike anything I had ever been privy to before – while I’ve seen Mariah Carey up close at concert, it wasn’t a packed house like Cherilyn’s was. And it was completely packed. Twelve thousand people had descended upon the arena for even the slightest glimpse of their god. The gay screams were much more ecstatic, the drones of tipsy wine mothers balancing out the hysteria like mother whales singing to their brood. On top of that, the range of fans was much more diverse. The freshest of faces were balanced out by the wrinkled crevasses that remembered when Cher was just the wife of Sonny Bono, over 50 years ago. I was probably one of the younger ones there, but not because of a lack of early 20s adult gays, it was just because the legend had drawn out so many baby boomers from their caves. They were just as hyped up as the generations they seem so determined to destroy – it was a wondrous sight to see, like first stepping out onto the Farplane in Final Fantasy 10. The spectre of Death had no place here.

Cher did not come to play games. She brought every aspect of her persona that allowed her to command such high ticket fees, and transported the Vegas professionalism that had made her such a desired tour act even into her early 70s. While the song choices were definitely a greatest hits collection as well as a chance to showcase her upcoming ABBA cover album, it was by no means stuck in the past. She’s a historic figure, but she’s still living, goddamnit! It was much a celebration of what she could do as much as what she had already done – if her Farewell Tour of nearly 15 years ago was meant to be a bookend to her career, she didn’t let the bookshelf know that. It doesn’t need to be said, but just to be clear, her voice still holds up. The autotune is just for shits and giggles.

Each song got the audience out of their seats – even the soppier power ballads of the mid ‘80s had the audience dancing. I jumped about a metre out of my chair when I heard the opening piano track to Walking in Memphis, and I think I joined the thousands of people struggling to hold back tears when she did a video duet with aforementioned Sonny Bono, who died twenty years ago. I Got You, Babe was definitely a moment to behold.

It wasn’t all great, though. I was desperately hoping she wouldn’t bring over her fascination with exoticism that she’s been somewhat linked to over the years, and I knew I would be cringing at some point in the concert, as there was no way that she wasn’t going to be singing some of songs from her early years, when her career was built around being faux-Native American and prancing around in sacred headdresses. And unfortunately, Ms Cherilyn did not hold back – being over 50 years into her career with little public blowback about such a matter, I guess it’s just not something you even consider. While the songs themselves are great, if discussing social matters that I don’t really have a place to comment on, it’s kinda cringey to see her in full Native American cosplay. Likewise, the riding on a decorative elephant during a Hindu mantra session was similarly wrinkle-inducing.

I love the woman, and I think she’s gotten better at this stuff in recent years. Not enough, but certainly more than her peers of the era, and even today. (No Doubt, for one thing.) It helps that she’s also become a strong figure for transgender acceptance – her relationship with the concept was not as warm as it is today, so it shows that even as the years go by, this particular baby boomer is capable of change.

But anyway. The wigs were on point – maybe not the fluffy orange one she first wore, but the rest of her collection of crowns and party wigs were outstanding. The costumes were to die for – I can’t imagine being 72 and looking as fantastic in her burlesque costume as she did. There are many people 50 years younger than her that would be jealous: there were women in the audience of similar age to Cher who were staring with envy. My favourite of the night was the rhinestone-studded golden skintight fit, with a golden sun crown on top. It was divine.

 

Everyone got what they wanted. We knew what was coming and we were not let down. And of course, much like her career, Believe went on for much longer than anyone thought possible.