Nine costumes, with a couple jacket-throwing reveals among them. So as to not bury the lede.
She’s spectacle given instantly recognizable form, that Cher — "the mighty, mighty Cher," as opening act and Chic genius Nile Rodgers said before she came out Tuesday night at San Antonio’s AT&T Center. The mononymous megastar is currently powering through a global farewell tour. It’s named the "Here We Go Again Tour," both a nod to her role in the "Mamma Mia!" cinematic universe and because she can’t stop saying goodbye.
Cher’s 2019 Texas dates did not include a stop in Austin. So, your dedicated Austin360 team drove to San Antonio on a school night. She is a decades-spanning cultural institution; I can sit in rush-hour traffic on Interstate 35 for an hour and a half.
Cher peeked out from behind the scrim and waved at the audience before her kickoff numbers, the latter-career rave fuel "Woman’s World" and "Strong Enough." Then, in teal from wig to toe, she descended from the ceiling in a golden doorway to heaven, looking every inch the mother of God. (Very flattering gesture to Chaz Bono.) Gladiators with abs flexed and flew around her. She bumped one Spartacus to the side with her hip. Then Cher did a box step.
Her power! Her history! Behold, the impressive charisma and career of a woman who’s been massively famous since Lyndon B. Johnson was president and Martin Luther King was marching, who still charts songs in the Trump era. More or less, each costume change marked a Cher era — Chera, yes, OK — punctuated by video retrospectives.
But first, the lady wanted to say something.
"Sit down. I need to get a drink, and I’ll tell you a story," Cher said.
Besides an immortal career, the 73-year-old entertainer shares with Dolly Parton a penchant for onstage one-liners that play to the parking lot: "How do you like my hair? It’s natural." "I’ll just be a blur in fabulous costumes." "I am certainly not dead. I am really alive."
The story between the lines involved Cher’s 40th birthday, Studio 54, "Moonstruck," a swanky hotel room, "Nicky" Cage, director George Miller, Jack (Nicholson, she then clarified), the Oscars, "crying fabulous tears," David Letterman, a cake, two bellboys and $28,000. I wouldn’t dare summarize it. Use your imagination.
We got "All Or Nothing" — troublingly draped in South Asian cultural elements for no reason but costuming and a giant elephant prop, it must be mentioned. Then, thankfully, the first aesthetic shift brought us to the Sonny and Cher era, complete with bell bottoms and mod-clad dancers. First "The Beat Goes On" — still slaps — and then "I Got You Babe." Hopefully the (very courteous and efficient!) security screeners confiscated any cynicism at the door, because watching Cher duet with a big-screen projection of ex-husband (and lifelong friend) Sonny Bono was lump-in-your-throat stuff of the highest order.
Related note: genuinely great to realize Cher’s 1960s-era looks would still slay in any East Sixth Street cocktail bar in 2019. Double-winged eyeliner and overgrown bangs? We live, we die, we live again.
Cher did not want anyone to forget her Hollywood star power — at times, one sensed she perhaps is more proud of that Oscar than any of her hit songs. She performed "Welcome To Burlesque" from her 2010 flick "Burlesque," followed by a triple-shot of ABBA hits from last year’s "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" (and her recent covers album) — "Waterloo," SOS" and "Fernando." Cher actually sang the last one in the movie; in San Antonio, it came as she ascended on a platform like she was returning to her home planet.
Key costume change: an actual golden goddess gown (dark horse for look of the night) to (maybe) belt out Oscar-nominated "After All." The video screen played a clip montage of Cher’s contributions to the cinematic arts. The entire area screamed "Snap out of it!" after she slapped Nicky Cage in 1987.
If your Cher bingo card had "Cher performs a spiritual tribute to Elvis Presley in two-toned Harvey Dent-style menswear and a Debbie Harry wig," then congratulations, you won a delightful pairing of "Walking In Memphis" and "The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss)."
Our hero brought the whole en-Cher-lada home with the laser-drenched pandemonium of "Believe," her auto-tuned Clinton-era comeback smash. But the most satisfying stop in the time machine was right before, by a crystal-spangled mile: Cher’s return to the hair-metal guitars and big arena choruses of her late-1980s hits. She strutted out in that big curly black mane, that hard-butch leather jacket, that black-and-nude optical illusion of a leotard (now featuring a slightly more modest backside).
"I Found Someone" was just gleefully killing time. "If I Could Turn Back Time" felt like reaching for the stars, like all the words that ever hurt you had been taken back. The crowd went wild, and Cher literally skipped off stage. Especially notable, because listen, there was not a lot of knee activation for the star of the show throughout the night, as resplendent as it was.
No knock, though. Like Cher said earlier in the night: "What is your granny doing tonight?"