March 7th, 2008
10:34 AM ET

'Miss M' still 'Divine'

Many people know her as the "Divine Miss M," but Bette Midler refers to herself several times during her new Las Vegas revue as "the people's diva." After seeing the show at Caesars Palace, I'd say either title fits.

Bette Midler dazzles as "Soph" in her new Las Vegas show.

From her first appearance on stage, atop a pile of Louis Vuitton luggage, Midler embraces the audience with her warmth and a personality as sparkling as her shimmering outfit (note to Hillary Clinton - if there's any fabric left over it would make for a dynamite pants suit).

At age 62 Midler works the stage with surprising vigor. That's no small feat - the stage is 120 feet long. She manages to make a virtue of the absurd dimensions by pausing theatrically at intervals to catch her breath and even lying flat on her back, declaring she's “exhausted by all the schlepping.”

The 90-minute show zips by, with Midler performing some new material and her best-known songs, including "From a Distance” and "Wind Beneath My Wings." Her voice is most effective in the lower ranges, and tends to veer off key when she starts belting the high notes (at least to my ears). But she seems to derive so much joy from performing that you forgive her anything.

She's joined by her backup singer-dancers, the Harlettes. They're not terribly memorable, nor are the slew of high-kicking chorines (pretty much rhymes with boring) who also try to take up some of the vast real estate on stage.

The show could do with a redesigned set narrowing the proportions of the stage; it was originally built for Celine Dion, who spent five years there in an act that included some Cirque du Soleil-like acrobatics. But Midler is still able to connect with the audience (the arena seats over 4,000) with the help of amusing banter (much of it supplied by veteran comedy writer Bruce Vilanch) and a hilariously vulgar routine in which Midler channels a 93-year-old showgirl named Soph (as in famed entertainer Sophie Tucker).

I often lament that Midler didn't manage her film career more successfully - remember when she was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood? - but setting up shop in Vegas seems like the right move for her now. (She’ll certainly make a mint: the top ticket price is $250.) The title of her spectacular is "The Showgirl Must Go On." The night I was there, the audience wouldn't have it any other way.

- CNN Entertainment Producer Matt Carey


Filed under: Uncategorized
March 6th, 2008
12:00 PM ET

World's 'greatest' record collection can (still) be yours

Apparently, Paul Mawhinney's 3 million-strong record collection - which includes valuable recordings by Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones and many others - is still for sale.

He values it at $50 million, but was selling it on eBay for much less. Still, a winning bid of $3,002,150 turned out to be false, so there's still time if you have some extra cash. Check that couch for loose change.

(I wonder what Elton John, who sold off some of his own fabled record collection several years ago, thinks of this.)

- Todd Leopold, CNN.com Entertainment Producer


Filed under: Uncategorized
March 4th, 2008
11:01 AM ET

They called it pop

In all the attention given to the 25th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” the anniversary of another great pop album is being overlooked.

Nick Lowe

Nick Lowe's "Jesus of Cool" is just out in a 30th-anniversary edition.

I refer, of course, to Nick Lowe’s “Jesus of Cool” - originally titled “Pure Pop for Now People” in the United States - which was recently released in a 30th-anniversary edition that combines the slightly differing track lists of both versions with a number of extra songs.

Many people prefer the original UK title, but for me “Pure Pop for Now People” sums up the album - and the ever-witty Lowe - far more appropriately. In 1978 what the Basher was doing was both old and new: hearkening back to classic ‘60s arrangements and styles (“Tonight’s” melting romance, “Heart of the City’s” raw power) with late-‘70s irony (who else would write a song about the unfortunate death of a silent film star that included the line, “She was a winner/Who became a doggie’s dinner/She never meant that much to me”?).

Lowe, as Entertainment Weekly points out in its review, has been perennially underrated. The man helped lay the groundwork for punk and New Wave with his pub-rock band, Brinsley Schwarz (their history is given a wink in the song “They Called It Rock”) and was Stiff Records’ staff producer, working on records by Elvis Costello, the Damned and Wreckless Eric. On his own, he’s created a number of classic albums, always leavened by melodic wit and more recently by a great deal of soul.

I’ll be the first to admit my biases: along with Ray Davies, Nick Lowe is my musical hero. But I hope my own predispositions don’t steer you away from a terrific album. Lowe loves a lot of things - “I Love My Label” and “(I Love the Sound of) Breaking Glass” are two of the songs on “Cool” - but what he really loves is pure pop music. You can hear the joy all the way through “Jesus of Cool.”

- CNN.com Entertainment Producer Todd Leopold


Filed under: Uncategorized
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