You Better Sit Down Kids, Cher is Here for Another Tour
The show started promptly with, “Everybody Dance” which commanded the crowd to do the same, to everyone's delight. Nile was dressed in a sparkly sequin dress jacket and a white kangaroo hat while the Chic vocalist matched in long, lamé silver dresses and blunt wigs. What stood out to me, besides the fabulous costumes, was the fact that they occupied the front part of the stage, due to an extremely large, draped tapestry that covered the whole width and height of the stage. Seeing them get down and jam using 10% of the stage was a little strange, but the energy they projected to the whole crowd was electrifying and contagious. It felt more intimate.
Their first single “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)” played as images of the band projected on the billowing ornate tapestry behind them. The funk was served by the sax man while Kimberly Davis took it to a whole other level with her runs that tore the house down before switching to "I Want Your Love." They stopped for a moment while Nile talked about how this was the best day job because he got to work with many talented artists such as, Diana Ross, Duran Duran, Lady Gaga and thanked Cher for having them join her on tour. He explained to the crowd he was going to play his hits and our only job was to sing when he said “Sing.” We all eagerly complied as we awaited for more hits to roll out the stage. “I'm Coming Out”, which Nile wrote for Diana Ross, and "He’s The Greatest Dancer" which was produced for Sister Sledge, was played so effortlessly and felt like live remixing when Kimberly broke it down with range so sensual, I got goosebumps.
The hits were put on hold when Nile took a moment to talk about his aggressive cancer diagnosis only a few years ago. He asked us to raise our phones, and lighters if we had any, to go old school for him. He explained to the crown that a doctor told him to think about his life and decide what he wanted to do and that’s when he decided to do more collaborations, songs, and shows than he has done before. Soon after the diagnosis he got a call from Pharrell Williams and Daft Punk and today he is cancer free. It was amazing to see the magical glow of light from the audience as Nile talked about this story. He was proud to announce every song he plays he wrote himself and that Chic is funk, disco, r&b, and soul. We were all cheering in agreement as he kicked off into "Get Lucky" as everyone rose to their fee. David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” filled the arena with the sound of Russell Graham on the keyboard with the most enchanting voice doing the song justice. I could make out sections upon sections of people dancing to this cover as they were and doing it honor of our beloved David Bowie.
When it was time for the last song, Niles mentioned he likes to play this song last as a tribute because if it wasn’t for Studio 54, Chic wouldn’t be a thing. A loud roar projected out from the tiny stage as the words “Freak Out!” followed. One of their most known songs “Le Freak” closed out the set and we all took this opportunity to have one last dance with the influential Chic before Cher graced the stage. It was over in a little less than an hour and the perfect way to end the night. My grandfather introduced me to all of these hits and I grew up with them but you have a different sense of appreciation when you realize that the common factor in all of these songs is one man, Nile Rodgers.
Cher 9 pm
The entire arena was restless as we waited forty minutes for Cher to step on the stage but when the lights dimmed and a highlight clip of her over the year flashed on the screens, all of that turned into heightened anticipation. The large tapestry dramatically dropped from the ceiling and everyone screamed. I scanned the stage looking for her or where she might appear from but little did I know all I had to do was look up. Cher descended from the top of the stage on an ornate elevator singing "Women's World” and transitioned into “Strong Enough.” She was wearing a large, curly orange wig and all gold gladiator armor to match her male and female backup dancers.The choreographed routine was dynamic and traveled around the whole stage with Cher center or leading the way. The song ended and when the dancers cleared the stage Cher was left to talk about when time was rough and money was owed to the Government. Sonny told her they should perform at dinner theaters, George Miller and Jack Nicholson telling her she wasn't pretty and didn't want her in their movie The Witches of Eastwick. She owed a friend $28,000 and agreed to go on David Letterman’s show for that price to pay them back, and how she is always surprised when people clap whenever she mentions her age but then remembers she is 72 and busting her ass, what is your granny doing tonight?
Cher disappears for her costume change as the dancers come out looking like extras for a Bollywood movie. While they danced a large elephant peaks through the column entrance with glowing eyes and tusks until its que to emerge and meet them on stage with Cher perched on its back singing “All or Nothing”. Dancers in color danced around every bit of the stage, going up and down one end of the curved staircase to the other as Cher shook her hips. I was so captivated by her performance and stage presence that I didn't notice the elephant was missing from the stage.
From that point on all the transitional periods between costume changes had clips playing that related and almost hinted to the songs she was about to play next. A red glow and hypnotic lights set the tone as "The Beat Goes On" marched on with the 1960s swing dancers and Cher in a purple fur vest, fuchsia glitter sweater and pastel striped bell bottoms. When the dancers exited the stage she was left alone to sing “I Got You Babe” with Sonny on screen.
The hits continue with Cher being cheeky and commanding the stage to “Welcome To Burlesque”, a nosedive into multi-color costumes and blonde hair to ABBA’s “Waterloo”, a solo for “SOS”, and rose to the top of the staircase through the magical elevator while performing “Fernando” to a beautiful night sky behind her, cut from Mama Mia! Here We Go Again.
"Walking in Memphis" picked the energy back up after “Fernando” while “The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)” had the vocalists along with the dancers come forward and perform with Cher which I appreciated since the next two songs “I Found Someone”and “If I Could Turn Back Time” were solo performances with only a lead guitarist shredding next Cher and giving her some chemistry to play with which lead into her closing performance of “Believe” with all of her dancers returning. Cher never looked better in a red bang wig with silver thorn crown, a diamond stoned, curtain robe and pink pasties. At this point of the show not only was the audience celebrating but the performers on stage were as well. The congratulations to each other were infectious as you can feel the love and bond they have with one another, even Cher put her mic down and danced with them and tossed her hair as they paraded off stage.
It was a treat to get a Vegas Show level experience here in Jacksonville during a weekday but I was paying for it the next day. While I did find an issue with the long intermission between Nile Rodgers and Cher’s set along with the clips between the costume changes resetting the energy of the crowd each time, I would say this show was a performance piece from start to finish with Nile Rodgers & Chic showing us they can not only compete but keep up with the headliner Cher to Cher herself flaunting how much of a seasoned professional she is while not breaking a sweat, once. I suggest everyone who is a fan of Nile Rodgers, Chic, or Cher to check out the Here We Go Again Tour because it’s an experience that can be felt from the front row to the nose bleeds. Besides, this could be her last farewell tour… or not.