REVIEW: Cher turns back time with ABBA-themed show at Chase Center

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Cher

Cher performs at Chase Center in San Francisco on Nov. 21, 2019. Photos: Sean Liming.

SAN FRANCISCO — After starring in “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” the sequel film based on the Broadway production that incorporated the music of ABBA as its songbook, Cher fell in love with the music of the Swedish group. Last year, she released an album of ABBA covers, which became not only critically acclaimed, but one of Cher’s best-selling as well. Dancing Queen sold better in its first week than any of her previous 25 solo albums and was her first No. 1 on the U.S. Top Album Sales chart. 

Cher

Cher performs at Chase Center in San Francisco on Nov. 21, 2019.

Emboldened, the 73-year-old diva took the show on the road in Europe in 2018, and Thursday she played the second date of her “Here We Go Again Tour” at Chase Center. As it turned out, the ABBA song selection made up a memorable yet relatively short portion of the show—though covers constituted more than half of the songs that she, her band and colorful dancers performed.



True to her hit “If I Could Turn Back Time,” the performance traveled backward in time, first with Cher’s newer original material (her previous album was 2013’s Closer to the Truth), then a small taste of Sonny & Cher songs, three ABBA tunes, and a couple of songs that either paid homage to or were from the ’50s, before closing with a couple of her biggest hits.

While the show came off as a bit of a “Cher sampler” dish at only 15 songs, it was entertaining from start to finish and likely left many fans wanting more.

Following a career-spanning photo and video montage—the first of a handful—the curtain dropped to reveal a bedazzled Cher, wearing a purple robe and candy-blue hair, being lowered from the rafters on a platform. The singer and actress opened with “Woman’s World,” from Closer to the Truth. Several sexy and muscular dancers dressed as Trojans danced behind her, and there very well may have been some line dancing moves in there.

The production included an elaborate two-tiered stage with walkways rising to the second level. There was a large screen at the very back, and also lining the “wall” between the main stage and the upper tier. The band, including several back-up vocalists, were set against this lower screen but were still visible.

 

Following “Strong Enough,” from 1998’s Believe, Cher went into storyteller mode—and was a talker.

“There’s nothing worse than a diva with a parched throat,” she said before beginning, and getting a drink.

Cher

Cher performs at Chase Center in San Francisco on Nov. 21, 2019.

It would be near impossible to tell a brief version, but it centered around how she celebrated her 40th birthday. There was a glamorous party on her last night as a 39-year-old and a stay at a friend’s hotel during which she accumulated a $28,000-bill. She was awakened the next morning by film director George Miller, who told her why she wasn’t sexy anymore and dropped her from his movie in which she was set to play. And the story ended with an explanation of how she talked the producers of the “Late Show with David Letterman” to pay her $28,000 to go on the show.

While such a long tangent so early in a concert can throw off the delicate balance, Cher used her talents as an actor to keep the story intriguing all the way through. The story, all in all, led to Cher admitting that like everyone, she wished she was younger, but that she wasn’t about to let any life slip away while she focused on the past.

“I’m 73,” she said, to a rousing ovation. “Sometimes I wonder if you do that because I’m still alive,” she added, laughing.



Cher then briefly left the stage for the first of several costume changes, while her dancers, dressed in colorful Indian outfits, set the scene for the grandest of the show’s production pieces. During “All or Nothing,” also from Believe, Cher emerged from the top of a relatively life-sized prop elephant.

Another costume change came immediately after. As memories of Cher with late ex-husband Sonny Bono flashed on the screen, the dancers reemerged dressed for a ’60s era London go-go club. The diva was at the center in a sparkly catsuit with striped bellbottoms. Following Sonny & Cher tune “The Beat Goes On,” the iconic “I Got You Babe” came next, with Cher trading verses with a projected Bono. There was no element of cheesiness present. It was was as touching as a bombastic show like that could get.

The slinky “Welcome to Burlesque,” from the soundtrack to the 2010 film “Burlesque,” had some of its own show-stopping moments thanks to its overt sexuality, including dancers grinding on one another. That preceded a Cirque-esque performance during a dress change that included two dancers acrobatically swinging through the air. While for most of the show they didn’t try to outshine Cher, this was clearly meant to be their moment.

With the speeches over, the latter half of the show breezed by, starting with the candy-sweet ABBA covers: the nostalgic “Waterloo,” the melodramatic and moody “SOS” and “Fernando,” which had many at Chase Center unabashedly singing along without a hint of sarcasm.

There were more costume changes, more wigs, more razzle-dazzle and more pulling of heartstrings. A video montage of Cher’s film roles concluded with her receiving an Oscar and admitting she didn’t fit in with either the acting or musician crowd.



She came out looking like an Oscar trophy herself in a flowing gold dress with a halo crown on her head to perform “After All.” Before faithfully covering Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis,” another video explained how, at the age of 11, she got into music thanks to Elvis. Then, to take the concert all the way to early 1960s, she even sang “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss),” originally performed by Betty Everett.

Just as the evening’s chronological journey was becoming clear, Cher got to the big conclusion. She closed with “If I Could Turn Back Time” and “Believe,” ending the show at its highest point.

Soul and funk singer-songwriter Nile Rodgers and Chic opened the show with a 40-minute set of energized, danceable soul music. The group covered Chic’s hits along with some of the songs Rodgers’ has written for others, such as David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” Dianna Ross’ “I’m Coming Out” and “Upside Down,” and an especially soulful take on Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”

Nile Rodgers & CHIC, Nile Rodgers, Kimberly Davis, Folami

Nile Rodgers & CHIC performs at Chase Center in San Francisco on Nov. 21, 2019.

Rodgers told a story about how several years ago he was diagnosed with two types of cancer and decided to focus the time he thought he had left to write as much as possible, which led to the collaboration with Daft Punk and Pharell Williams.

It’s “a song I believe saved my life,” said Rodgers, who donned a silky purple suit and was flanked by vocalists Kimberly Davis and Folami.



The set included Chic’s first single, “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah),” “Everybody Dance,” “Le Freak” and “I Want Your Love,” which has a jazzy trumpet solo and was capped by Davis’ piercing vocals.

By the time Chic got to party anthem “Good Times,” the early arrivers were dancing in the aisles and the room was awash in all the colors of the rainbow.

Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter. Follow photographer Sean Liming at Twitter.com/SeanLiming and Instagram.com/S.Liming.

(1) Comment

  1. Judy K Levy

    My 28 year old son went with his 26 year old sister. Both had never knew much about Cher. They left so inspired and grateful to see a show worthy of the price. It is a once in a lifetime experience to see Cher perform. So happy for them!

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