Bette Midler’s performance Monday at the Universal Amphitheatre was part Vegas, part Catskills and part Broadway musical as the diminutive diva delivered a fast-paced presentation that showcased every aspect of her considerable skill.
Midler, backed by an ensemble of the town’s top players, offered soaring high notes mixed among the sweeping ballads, nasally retorts during the showstopping shtick and dance steps that would kill most performers half her age.
And only the Divine Miss M could pull off singing “New York, New York” dressed in her Delores DeLago mermaid get-up and close the tune by joining her backing singers for a Rockettes-style chorus line with fish tails aloft in sync with the tune’s downbeats.
Midler has changed her show only slightly from when she last played the venue three years ago, adding, among other tunes, the Lesley Gore nugget “You Don’t Own Me” from “The First Wives Club,” the Paramount Pictures film in which she starred with Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn. (Midler expectedly made much of the film’s success and its cross into the vaunted $100 million box office territory).
While her trips to the ballad bar with such tracks as “Wind Beneath My Wings” were well-executed, her visits to “The Rose” soundtrack perhaps best-defined Midler’s substantial contributions to the music industry, with her signature sound and style that is often emulated but never duplicated.
She earned the first of several standing ovations after offering a pristine reading of the timeless title track, aided by the tune’s haunting piano notes resonating throughout the hall; and a gritty, yet moving rendition of “Stay With Me” ranked the pair of tunes among the evening’s best offerings.
Midler could be criticized for refusing to contemporize her show by adding a current track or two, instead of relying heavily on her formidable past.
But the sold-out house — which tended to skew along the same lines as the singer’s age — found much favor with everything she did onstage.