Cher knows her narrative. She's the 73-year-old pop sensation who just won't quit, and she owns that.
Near the start of her Denver concert at the Pepsi Center on November 25, she addressed a packed stadium with, "I'm going to tell you my age. And when I do, you'll cheer. Now, I'm not sure why people cheer, but I think it's for one of two reasons: Either they're happy I'm still alive...or that I still fit into my costumes."
The crowd cheered loudly for both reasons.
Still selling out international arenas, Cher understands that concert-goers expect a lifetime of greatest hits from their favorite, ever-sexy performer. So, clad in a voluminous blue wig and matching sequined bodysuit, Cher began her show with a rendition of "Woman's World." This 2013 hit, a nod to her 1995 album, It's a Man's World, opened the show by promoting a modern Cher, a Cher that between 1995 and 2013 decided she could bask in the glory of female power.
After her high-energy opening number, Cher took a moment to tell a story. Bopping about the stage, she recalled her fortieth birthday, when movie director George Miller and actor Jack Nicholson called her to tell her that she was getting cut from their project, the film The Witches of Eastwick. She said, "In Hollywood, people usually tell you you're fired, then they hang up." But as she recalled, Miller didn't stop there. He went on to tell her that she was fired because he and Nicholson thought she was too old, that she wasn't "hot" anymore.
The story sent the audience into a rage. How dare anyone wrong Cher like that! And on her birthday, no less! But she went on to explain that after a good cry, she decided to get back on her feet. Because despite what they said, she still felt hot, and she wasn't about to let anyone — especially aging men — tell her otherwise. She kept her part in the film.
After that story, she paused, then bellowed, "So before we start this extravaganza, where's your granny tonight?"
The crowd went wild. Then, harnessing her full-blown energy, she launched into "Strong Enough" and then "All or Nothing."
But just as this fireball of female empowerment was heating up, the show took an awkward turn. Suddenly, a giant projected Sonny Bono lorded over Cher, and she sang their duet, "I Got You Babe," with his disembodied head. For a woman who filed for divorce on the grounds of "involuntary servitude," it didn't feel empowering to see her serenade this Wizard of Oz-like ex-husband. Instead, it felt downright subjugating.
Throughout the performance, Cher kept coming back to anecdotes about how, despite her age, despite her struggles, she has always persevered. She has always fought for her own satisfaction, and she has been good at everything she's put her mind to.
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But despite her inspirational tales and pitches for women to believe in themselves, the moral of many of her stories came back around to the notion that she's remained relevant because she's remained hot.
Sure, it was wonderful to see an aging woman dominating as a pop sensation. But it felt antiquated that Cher's spectacle, framed as a celebration of female empowerment, is still shrouded by overbearingly traditional gender norms and conventional beauty standards.
While Cher's performance was as fresh as ever, her attempts at empowering women were out of date.
Hear Cher and more favorites from Westword writers on our Westword Staff Picks playlist.