Bette Midler at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. | Photo courtesy of Lisa DiStefano
“I’m like vodka,” Bette Midler quipped to the nearly sold-out crowd at the Wells Fargo Center last night. “I’m colorless, odorless and tasteless!” Everyone roared.
Actually, the 69-year-old diva struggled a bit with the line. Calm down; I’m not reading her. Initially she flubbed the joke, abandoned it, then remembered it and finally charged through with gusto. That’s not a read. If you’ve ever seen me on stage, you’ve been treated to the slow-motion train-wreck that is me instantaneously forgetting 90 percent of everything I’ve ever known. I only mention it because that moment—one that the consummate performer breezed over with aplomb—encapsulates so much of the Divine Miss M’s appeal: underneath her crackerjack timing, her arsenal of hoary jokes, and her distinctively dazzling voice, she’s always straddled the two sides of vulnerability as a performer, evincing resilience and fragility at once. Now, after over 45 years of carrying on, she’s not afraid to acknowledge the passage of time, be it in a ribald set about aging or by momentarily forgetting a line.
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On Saturday night America’s fiancé–and Penn alum—John Legend, arrived at the Mann Center with a singular mission: to get Philadelphia laid. The silken-voiced R&B crooner played a tight 100-minute set attended by cool, late summer breezes that whispered sweet nothings into our ears.
Legend is touring on the strength of his three current love songs, “All of Me,” “Made to Love,” and “You and I,” all written for his model wife of eight months, Chrissy Teigen. He is as wholesome as an artist who is constantly singing about intercourse can get. In this respect, and so many others, Legend is the anti-Robin Thicke. The latter blew into summer 2013 with the monster hit “Blurred Lines,” and then spent the ensuing months on an extended musical bachelor party. And not a nice bachelor party, either. Like, a bachelor party with two groomsmen who have probably committed a misdemeanor held at a strip club where mobsters make deals in the movies. Meanwhile, with the success of this year’s singles, Legend continues his 10-year streak of cranking out mid-tempo jams and ballads in an effort to corner the market on making everyone pregnant.
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Is there a more exhilarating sound to a concert-goer’s ears than Diana Ross wailing the opening notes to her signature hit “I’m Coming Out” from somewhere far off-stage? The 1980 hit and unofficial gay anthem has been a staple at Ross’s concerts since its debut, most frequently serving as her opener as she races through the audience, futzing with her always-gargantuan wrap, and singing. It’s a gambit that perfectly encapsulates the legendary performer’s appeal—it is both extravagant and intimate, the gesture of a true diva who still wants to be close to her fans.
Ross, who returned to Philadelphia last night after a 10-year absence, has not changed her M.O. The signature horn blasts of “I’m Coming Out” and Ross’s reedy voice shot out across the twilight before she’d set foot on the stage of the Mann Center. As part of the “In The Name of Love Tour,” the 70-minute Wednesday night concert was a reliable trip down memory lane, revisiting a surfeit of the former Supreme’s hits from the ’60s and ’70s. Indeed, the 34-year-old show opener was the most current of Ross’ hits to be performed.
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