The enjoyably excessive Bette Midler brought her trashy theatrics and bawdy business to a packed Baltimore Civic Center last night. But, like her records, Midler's live performance was polished but wildly uneven.
Forgoing her usual splashy entrance, Midler, resplendent in a luridly colored satin tutu and pink car coat, simply barreled into a rock shouter, seasoned with her patented prurient patois.
Since her last outing, Midler has become a more convincing rock singer. She delivered a scorching "Fire Down Below," and a raw-voiced reading of the Rolling Stones' "Beast of Burden." Her superb band provided the latest high-tech sound effects, and her shameless Harlettes were in fine voice.
Last night's production seemed scattershot, full of snippets of past shows. Midler ran through her crowd-pleasing arsenal of Sophie Tucker jokes and gleefully dumped on the Royal Family, and, referring to her "Oscar dress" that received a standing ovation, she said, "This year Dustin Hoffman wants to wear it." Midler even dusted off mermaid Delores Del Lago, in a breathless send-up of '70s disco hits, complete with careening choreographed wheelchairs.
But Midler's act was perhaps too diverse to work. In her frenzy to be all things--chanteuse, stage and screen star and burlesque buffoon--Midler wound up confusing her audience.