Gig review: Bette Midler, SSE Hydro, Glasgow

CALL IT force majeure, or call it divine intervention – as the artiste herself does - but when Hurricane Bette roared into the Hydro “ready to lift your skirts, like a boob job for the soul”, she was an irresistible force, a fast-talking, wise-cracking old school entertainer, riffing on a combination of playful ego and showbiz pzazz. No wonder Lady Gaga nicked her mermaid routine.

Bette Midler. Picture: PA
Bette Midler. Picture: PA

Bette Midler

Hydro, Glasgow

Star rating: ****

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    This was as slick and sassy a spectacular as has ever graced the Hydro stage, with Midler supported by an accomplished big band, sensitive to the light and shade of the arrangements and eminently adaptable to the many musical styles Midler inhabits. “I have rescued more oldies than Viagra,” she quipped.

    Blithe jazz number I’ve Still Got My Health was spiced with some tasty western swing guitar. Do You Want to Dance was given a smooth cocktail lounge slow dance makeover. Next, she celebrated the girl groups in Auntie B’s Rock’n’Soul Revue with a high-energy version of The Exciters’ Tell Him, her shimmying soul sister backing trio The Staggering Harlettes as animated as Tina Turner’s Ikettes.

    One could only admire her chutzpah as she aced song after song with her rich, expressive voice, transforming TLC’s Waterfalls into a jazz pop ballad, investing Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows with glamorous melodrama and giving The Rolling Stones’ Beast of Burden a touch of theatricality.

    The comic interludes were seamless. An extended routine on celebrity culture and social media (“remember the days when people feared being followed?”) featured merciless mocked up photos of Midler in compromising positions with Vladimir Putin, Jeremy Clarkson, Andy Murray, Margaret Thatcher and Nigel Farage – “he really knows how to ruin a bar mitzvah,” she jibed.

    Midler then appeared in full Hocus Pocus costume for I Put A Spell On You, counting the ways in which she would torment us – although pledging to eliminate football from Scotland actually won some approval from the audience – and donned a fabulous feathered creation for an uproarious tribute to singer/comedian Sophie Tucker which gleefully combined Vegas glitz and pure filth.

    At times, Midler veered close to undercutting the emotion of the music with the constant gags, but played it straight on a closing run of her biggest hits - quality power ballad The Rose, the simple, intimate From A Distance and the schmaltzy but big-hearted Wind Beneath My Wings.