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Concert review: Cher is still here and still fabulous

Standing center stage with a mane of orange hair, her slender legs extending from a gold-plated bodice, Cher had something to say.

“Hell, yes, you should clap. I’m still here for God’s sake!”

Her proclamation at the close of a lengthy – but eminently amusing – recap of her career that targeted Jack Nicholson’s chauvinism, David Letterman’s acidic humor and her own foibles, also included the reminder that she’s 72.

It’s a reality than any true Cher fan has already digested, but it’s still startling to hear it announced in a sold-out arena.

For about 90 minutes on Friday night, Cher again proved an ageless goddess as she whisked the festive crowd at Infinite Energy Arena through a career-hopping set list.

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RELATED>> Check out our photo gallery from Cher’s Infinite Energy Arena concert

Those who caught Cher on her last visit to Atlanta – 2014’s “Dressed to Kill” tour – or perhaps on those string of (cough, cough) farewell tours in the early aughts or at her “Classic Cher” show in Las Vegas, might have felt some déjà vu with the set list and some set pieces (hello, Mr. Elephant in “All or Nothing”).

Cher performed hits from throughout her career and added a few new ABBA covers to recognize her current album. Photo: Robb Cohen Photography & Video /RobbsPhotos.com

But Cher dubbed this 35-city outing - which launched its U.S. leg last week – “Here We Go Again” both as a cheeky nod to her never-gonna-happen retirement and to her current muse, ABBA.

Inspired by her role in last year’s “Mamma Mia!” sequel (clearly she was the best thing about that movie), Cher tapped her inner “Dancing Queen” for an album of ABBA covers and is showcasing a trio of them on this tour.

An effervescent “Waterloo,” with a cadre of dancers in Skittles-colored outfits frolicking and disco balls bobbing on the video screen and a robustly sung “S.O.S.” appeared to invigorate Cher. But during a rousing rendition of “Fernando,” the scalloped edges of the set pieces completely blocked her from view for those sitting stage right – a minor detail that should be addressed as the tour progresses. 

The additions meant that a few chestnuts, including “Dark Lady” and “Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves,” were scuttled, but the sweet duets with a video Sonny Bono for “The Beat Goes On” and “I Got You Babe” appeased fans who still relish their nostalgia.

The story of the multi-hyphenate’s remarkable life is currently doing solid business on Broadway in “The Cher Show” and one of its show-stopping numbers is an homage to Bob Mackie’s dazzling costumes. 

Those shimmery masterworks are given the usual spotlight onstage, from the beaded gold gown and matching halo Cher donned for “After All” – a platform for her signature lower register – to the elegant black pantsuit she sported when “Chelvis” performed a soulful cover of Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis” followed by the giddy bop of “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss).”

Yep, she's 72. Photo: Robb Cohen Photography & Video /RobbsPhotos.com

Throughout the show, Cher was backed by a five-piece band and two backup singers; the gleaming-toothed Joel Hoekstra, an alum of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Whitesnake and Night Ranger, added some stinging electric guitar to a snippet of “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” before playfully shadowing Cher around the stage as she cavorted in a replica of her famous ‘80s-era “If I Could Turn Back Time” black leotard (again…she’s 72).

There may be more familiarity than originality in Cher’s current production, but so what? As the woman said, she’s still here, for God’s sake. So get clapping.

Nile Rodgers and Chic presented selections from their fun and funky catalog. Photo: Robb Cohen Photography & Video /RobbsPhotos.com

Cher has always appointed ideal tour mates (Cyndi Lauper and Pat Benatar most notably), and the choice of Nile Rodgers and Chic for this spate of tour dates is equally genius.

Rodgers’ work is legendary – aside from Chic, he’s produced and written hits for artists ranging from Duran Duran to Diana Ross to Madonna to David Bowie to Daft Punk – and what a treat to experience it live.

With the current Chic crammed behind him on a small portion of the stage, the always-grateful-seeming Rodgers (he beat cancer a few years ago) ching-changed those signature guitar riffs as singers Kimberly Davis and Atlanta-based Folami belted the disco-licious “Everybody Dance” and “I Want Your Love.”

Most of Chic’s songs are predicated on the groove, so a nasty rhythm section is essential. This lineup includes bassist Jerry Barnes and drummer Ralph Rolle, who led the band through a taut medley including “I’m Coming Out,” “He’s The Greatest Dancer” and “We Are Family.”

Nile Rodgers and the band also played many of the No. 1 hits he's written for artists including Diana Ross and David Bowie. Photo: Robb Cohen Photography & Video /RobbsPhotos.com

The band’s reworked version of Daft Punk’s Grammy-winning “Get Lucky” – which Rodgers co-wrote – zigzagged between soul and funk, while a tease of Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines” bled into the staccato beat of Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.”

The set-closing “Good Times” – which featured a detour into Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” with Rodgers handling the lyrics – not only turned into the expected jam, but also injected some salsa elements, proving that some melodies aren’t only timeless, but versatile. 

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About the Author

Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers music and entertainment news for the AJC. She remembers when MTV was awesome.  

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