Sunday night at PNC Arena, Cher paused a couple of songs in to address the crowd. She had just ridden down from the rafters in a chariot-of-the-gods-looking contraption, singing “Woman’s World” all the way to appear as a flaming-haired Nordic warrior princess surrounded by S&M centurions — as fabulously gauche an onstage entrance as you’ll ever see.
But that seemed unremarkable compared to the long and very funny monologue she delivered. Cher recounted various events from the past half-century of her career, dropping names and expletives as she worked up to finally admitting that she is (gasp) 72 years old.
Before leaving the stage for the first of many costume changes, she delivered a parting shot: What’s your granny doing tonight?”
Clearly, normal rules of time and space do not apply to Cher. She’s done multiple tours billed as “farewell” over the past two decades, but she just never can say goodbye. So she soldiers on with her latest tour, dubbed “Here We Go Again,” and why not?
She still sounds great and looks even better. And to her credit, Cher didn’t set an easy task for herself with the choice of opening act she has to follow every night, Nile Rodgers’ Chic.
Appearing onstage 10 minutes ahead of the advertised start time, Chic played a set that clocked in at just under an hour and was definitely worth showing up early for. Rodgers wore a bright red suit that practically glowed, fronting a nine-piece band sharp enough to cut glass. Every player onstage was a monster, especially bassist Jerry Barnes and house-shaking vocalist Kimberly Davis.
Rodgers has a unique ability to create anthems that come to mark an era. Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” defined 2013 just as surely as David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” defined 1983, and Chic’s own “Good Times” defined 1979. Few artists can do that even once, and yet Rodgers has pulled it off multiple times.
Sunday’s set didn’t cover all of Rodgers’ signature hits, but it did hit the best high points. There were the three songs above as well as Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family,” Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out” and the Chic hits “Le Freak” and “Good Times.”
Rodgers’ percussive guitar style remains both indelible and a model of economy, cutting a massive groove. He even rapped a verse of Sugarhill Gang’s proto-rap hit “Rapper’s Delight” during “Good Times,” in a nod to the historically minded. It was awesome.
Cher, meanwhile, presided over a multi-media spectacular that hit most but not all of her signposts. Conspicuously absent were “Half-Breed,” “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” and other tack hits from the ’70s.
During costume-change interludes, the video screens showed montages of Cher’s movies, phases and stages. She even did “I Got You Babe” as a duet with her late husband Sonny Bono on the screen.
In the course of her story-telling, she dropped a curse word or two, and the word was repeated in a pre-recorded video. After the show, Cher sent out an apology via Twitter, though her fans seemed to be pretty forgiving.
Almost every song was staged like a high-concept 1980s-era MTV video, with elaborate choreography and costumes. And what costumes. Cher went through nine outfits over the course of the evening, including one that looked like something out of Disney’s “Aladdin” as she rode onstage in a mechanical elephant.
Other outfits evoked the swinging ‘60s, ABBA (a nod to her memorable turn in last year’s film, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”) and Eurodisco chanteuse. Most surprising, however, was a sensible black pantsuit that would pass muster at the Grand Ole Opry, which she wore while covering Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis.”
The big guns came out just before the encore, when Cher appeared wearing a fishnet body stocking similar to what she wore in the video for her 1989 pop-metal hit “If I Could Turn Back Time.” The crowd roared, knowing what was coming, and she delivered.
She may not be able to actually turn back time, but Cher still more than pulls it off.
Cher will play at Charlotte’s Spectrum Center Jan. 29.
Cher concert setlist
Here We Go Again Tour at PNC Arena, Jan. 27, 2019
1. “Woman’s World”
2. “Strong Enough”
3. “Gayatri Mantra”
4. “All of Nothing”
5. “The Beat Goes On” (Sonny & Cher)
6. “I Got You Babe” (Sonny & Cher)
7. “Welcome to Burlesque”
8. “Waterloo” (ABBA cover)
9. “SOS” (ABBA cover)
10. “Fernando” (ABBA cover)
11. “After All”
12. “Walking in Memphis” (Marc Cohn cover)
13. The Shoop Shoop Song (“It’s in his Kiss”)
14. “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)“
15. “I Found Someone”
16. “If I Could Turn Back Time”
17. “Believe” (Encore)