Gig review: Cher at First Direct Arena, Leeds

Cher performed at First Direct Arena in Leeds.
Cher performed at First Direct Arena in Leeds.
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“How do you like my beautiful blue natural hair?” Cher posits to her capacity audience at Leeds’s First Direct Arena.

The shimmering, azure bob she currently sports will quite clearly be one of several wigs she wears over the subsequent hour-and-a-half, with as many headwear changes as costume swaps, but her rather self-deprecating candour obviously goes a long way with her generation-spanning supporters, decked themselves in a combination of day-glo pants, mesh vests and tweed jackets. “Two weeks ago, it was orange,” she quips.

There are many who didn’t think the Goddess of Pop would make it back onto British shores, having last been here in 2004, as part of her Farewell Tour. Her 2014 comeback jaunt Dressed to Kill was rumoured to have had a European leg nixed before it was announced after she was forced off the road through illness. Yet here she is, at seventy-three, still kicking it – and kicking it good – on stage, a decade-and-a-half after she hung up her sequins.

Effectively an extension of her Classic Cher residency show in Las Vegas, it’s a sprawling, career-spanning performance, if punctured too often as it rolls through the years by video montages of her film career and previous tours. An early doors, fifteen-minute monologue about a fight with Australian director George Miller takes up much of the performance’s first act. Yet with such a storied career as hers, she is allowed such indulgences – and flanked by a fabulous production that veers from ancient Greek chic and glittering elephant props to saucy burlesque and full-blown neon disco, few hardly care to notice.

The latter comes courtesy of a mid-show Abba karaoke party, an addition on the back of her appearance in last year’s Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. It’s undoubtedly a camp thrill to watch her wrap herself around Waterloo, SOS and Fernando with a voice very much still in the range of her heyday. Elsewhere, there’s tips of the hat to her Sonny and Cher days, a double-barrelled tribute to Elvis with her popular covers of Walking in Memphis and The Shoop Shoop Song, a relatively small concession to her rock-inflicted Eighties reinvention with the anthemic If I Could Turn Back Time.

“What’s your granny doing tonight?” she playfully quips. As the thudding, transcendent dance-pop of Believe caps off the night in a storming rush of endorphins, the answer is clearly not as much as her.