There is Cher, and then there is no one.
On Friday night, during the first of two sold-out shows at Atlantic City's Borgata Casino's big Event Center (the second concert is Saturday), the stunning 72-year-old icon proved, again, how she got to that solitary status.
Her famed effortless contralto voice with its deeply resonant vibrato is still there, that is when she didn't bother with such willowy layers of sequencing filters and AutoTune required for latter-day electro smashes such as the empowered likes of "Strong Enough." Who else, in her past or our present has that low and pulsing vocal tone and husky textures, combined with such warbling flexibility? Or even that theatrical level of aggression that she lent to the rock-out power ballad likes of "If I Could Turn Back Time?"
Even the plastic overuse of AutoTune on the bubbling, euphoric "Believe" has its own signature with Cher, as she crafted an art form out of pitch correction 20 years ago.
Packaged as a sort-of Disney Princess on Ice, grand theme park theatricale, with moving set pieces and what seemed like a dozen dancers, a wildly orange-wigged Cher – wrapped in gold lamé – was lowered from the rafters for the throbbing "Woman's World," and never stopped pacing through the constant set changes of carnivals, church yards, and abandoned warehouses (the latter, for the loping "Walking in Memphis").
Cher – a trooper if ever there was one – occasionally seemed to be merely tolerating all the changeover hoopla, rather than being its emotional focus. Like when she rode a faux elephant. Or when she sang to a screened image of her late husband and partner, Sonny Bono, during "I Got You Babe" (it was very nice, but seemed strained). Or being crowded by writhing dancers during her buoyant cover of Betty Everett's "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)," when it nearly looked as if Cher wanted to swat those wriggling boogaloo-ing kids away like so many flies.