Like any great financially irresponsible idea, it snowballed, and it snowballed quickly. Let’s go over the sequence of events in October that led me to a diva-filled vacation in May. Cher announces residencies in both Vegas and D.C. that start in February and end in May. Well…D.C. is considerably closer to New York than Vegas, so I guess that’s where I’m going. But just for kicks, let me see how much Vegas tickets are going for. Oh…they’re half the price of D.C. I mean, I’ve never been to Vegas before. And I don’t have to book a flight or a hotel right away, and…oh holy shit, she’s performing on her birthday. HER BIRTHDAY. This is my diva, so I have to be there. It’s unacceptable for me not to be there. But everybody’s going to want to be there then, I don’t know if I can even get—oops, I have two tickets now.
*Ten minutes later* Okay, if I’m going to be in Vegas, I might as well see Celine Dion, too.
Bye bye, bank account.
I feel like by now, you know me pretty well, dear readers. You know I take my divas seriously. And you know that this was an opportunity I couldn’t possibly pass up. It had been a good three and a half years since I’ve taken a vacation anywhere that required more than a three-hour car trip, so that alone was enough to get me excited. But to see Celine Dion—whose music has surrounded me in some capacity pretty much since I’ve been alive—do her thing the day before I see my queen diva do hers on her 71st birthday? My whole life was basically an extended preparation for this trip. And since my mom shares in my enthusiasm for both of these powerhouses (and honestly, I didn’t want to do this alone), it only seemed natural for her to be my partner-in-crime. After all, she was the one to take me to my first Cher concert fifteen years ago (that’s the first time I actually did the math on that, good god), not to mention the fact that she was hip to Celine long before I could even form opinions on her, so why not bring this thing full circle? So after seven months of waiting—and about three months of hearing about Classic Cher from people who got to experience it before I did—on May 18th, we boarded a flight to Sin City to be at the Colosseum on the 19th for Celine, and the Park Theater on the 20th for Cher. Call it heaven. Call it diva overload. Call it whatever you want.
This is the story of how I came back from Las Vegas a changed woman.
Before the Divas…
While this trip was all about quality diva fabulousness, we had to get a little touristy in our free time before the concerts. But even the touristy stuff ended up being diva-themed. We hit as many hotel casinos as we could, whether to just walk through them or to sink some money into the slot machines. Turns out, I’m really bad at gambling. There WAS a brief, shining moment where I won $28 off of an Ellen DeGeneres slot machine (I didn’t even realize that was a thing?)…which I promptly lost, along with the rest of the money I set aside for the casinos directly afterwards. But, with slots like these, I feel like I was personally targeted:
I mean, seriously? You’re just begging me to give you my money at this point, and let me tell you something: IT WORKED. Not only did that thing get my money, it kept my money.
The day of the Celine concert, my mom decided we should double down on the tourist life and spend some time in the Madame Tussauds located at the Venetian, despite her legitimate, long-time fear of wax statues (this was going to go SO WELL). She was a trooper, though, and by the time we got to the room that held all of the Vegas performers, we were gone. Because of course there was a Celine statue. And of course I had to do arm choreography.
Honestly, the museum could have started and ended with Celine, and I think we both would have been satisfied.
Also, this has absolutely nothing to do with Celine or Cher, but a city that lets me carry and drink from a souvenir cup filled with frozen margarita in the middle of the street is A-OK in my book. 10/10 would go back.
Celine at the Colosseum, or How I Cried 8,000 Times in Two Hours
I HAVE A LOT OF EMOTIONS AND CELINE DION JUST DESTROYED EVERY ONE OF THEM.
— Sarah Irvin (@queenofquiet) May 20, 2017
I am a firm believer in living an honest life. And my honest life includes me telling you that I have never seen a live performance of “My Heart Will Go On” without crying all over myself. So I’ve already got that going for me. And the only time I was ever in her vicinity when she performed was when she did a few songs on the TODAY show last summer and I was literally the last person to be let into Rockefeller Plaza that morning, so I knew that being in the audience of a full-length concert was going to bring on the tears. I just didn’t realize how often she was going to bring on the tears. This woman did not give me a break, and for that, I am thankful.
I was essentially basing all of my expectations for this concert on the DVD release of the A New Day show, which is the best kind of bonkers. Dancers, elaborate scenes, that random pale dude that I feel like has to be important to the storyline somehow but I’m not entirely sure how, so don’t ask me. And while I knew that the show I’d be seeing would be different, I was thinking it was going to be along the same lines, just a mass of people on stage doing crazy calculated things. And there were a lot of people in her band (I’m pretty sure they constituted a full-on orchestra). But when the show started, there were no dancers, no pale dudes. Just Celine and her brilliant talent, which is really all you ever need. This was a completely different thing from what I thought it would be, but that in no way diminished it. The concert I saw felt like an incredibly intimate experience for a Celine Dion concert, and I was so into it. So we settle in, we watch the intro video detailing Celine’s history at the Colosseum (set to “I Drove All Night,” and I’m not even going to pretend like I wasn’t singing my heart out to that). And I’m expecting something in the vein of “I Drove All Night” to be the first song of the night.
Then she starts singing “I Surrender.”
Oh. Okay. I see how it is, Celine. I see how it’s going to be. Just walk out on stage and immediately punch me in the feels. Yeah, go ahead. Emotionally compromise me right off the bat. Make me jump out of my seat and give you a standing ovation along with the rest of the damn audience (god, I love you). It would probably be a lot easier—and this post would be a lot shorter—if I only mentioned the times I didn’t get emotionally wrecked by a song, but where’s the fun in that? Obviously I was going to feel things when she sang “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” because the most epic songs are always my favorite. “Because You Loved Me” brings back really good memories of my childhood, so add that to the list. And, like…you’ve heard her version of “All By Myself,” right? Check. And I’m only scratching the surface here. The amazing thing about her is that she in no way phones it in, ever. The intro video let us know that we were at show number 1,040, which is nuts in and of itself, but hearing her sing and watching her on stage, it felt like she had the energy of someone embarking upon something new and exciting. And that enthusiasm was so contagious.
She’s amazing at engaging with an audience, too. In addition to a really delightful conversational tone to all of her on-stage banter, she was very much into getting the audience to sing along, particularly during “Because You Loved Me.” Celine stopped the music at the end, asking us if we would sing the last line of the song with her (which…do you even have to ask?). But this Celine-led sing-a-long of “Because You Loved Me” ended up being a Celine-led sing-a-long of “Cheap Thrills,” which turned into a Celine-led sing-a-long of “Under Pressure,” before finally coming back to a Celine-led sing-a-long of “Because You Loved Me.” I don’t know how we got on that path, but I am so glad we did.
Girl also knows how to slide effortlessly between genres. Yeah, she’s known for these epic pop ballads, but she’s also got that sweet, sweet nostalgia on lock. I already knew this from the duet of “All the Way” she does with that recording of Frank Sinatra, but for some reason, when she pulled out the cover of “Mr. Paganini,” I was completely blown away. Her voice is so well suited for something like that, it’s insane. And in the one-in-a-billion chance that Celine ever comes across my ramblings, I’d like to take this opportunity to address her directly:
Celine? Hi. It’s Sarah. Listen, love you, love everything about you. You crush every song you cover, and I’m pretty sure you know it (and if you don’t know, now you do). So let me just put this out there. I need an album full of standards like “Mr. Paganini” from you. Need it. And I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say the world needs it. That amazing nostalgia mixed with your general Celine-ness makes for a combo that can’t lose. And while I’m asking for things, maybe throw a duet with Cher in there too? Clearly you master the standards. She masters the standards. Both of you joining forces? Unstoppable. Thank you for your time. Please go back to slaying everything.
I knew she would be singing “Recovering;” it’s the last English single she put out, so of course that was going to be in the set list. And I was totally prepared to be a weeping mess during all of it, which frankly started as she was introducing it, talking about how after her husband’s death, she wasn’t quite sure what she needed in that moment, but then this song came her way. Cue a steady stream of tears for the duration of the song. But did I have a chance to catch a breath? Hell no. Because she went from “Recovering” directly into “Beauty and the Beast.”
Real talk: I am INCREDIBLY attached to Beauty and the Beast. It’s the first movie I remember watching, my absolute favorite Disney movie, and Belle has always been my princess. I legitimately sobbed during the entirety of the live-action remake the first time I saw it (the HOF ladies can attest to this) because it was so beautifully done. So to not only hear her sing this, but to hear her sing it RIGHT AFTER “Recovering,” doing it all in a yellow gown? I lost all hope for dry eyes. And then, to cap it all off, at the end of the song, she curtsied to her duet partner like she was Belle about to dance with the Beast and that wasn’t just the rudest thing in the world to do to my emotions. I didn’t realize this was going to happen, so I couldn’t get a picture of it, but it basically looked like this, except for the fact that everyone involved is 100% human:
Apparently a few days after I saw her, Celine performed her song for the live-action Beauty and the Beast, “How Does a Moment Last Forever,” for the first time ever, but it was probably good that I wasn’t there, because I would have full-on imploded.
And while on the whole, it was a different (yet just as satisfying) experience than what I was expecting, there of course had to be at least one piece of delicious, delicious extravagance in this set, and that came in the form of “My Heart Will Go On.” Just before the biggest moment of the song (sing it with me…”YOU’RRRREEEEEE HEEEERRRREEEEE…”), the platform Celine was standing on started to rise from the stage, and as she gave that song all she had, what I can only describe as a dancing waterfall surrounded her. I was too stunned to get video of it—although I have about 847 semi-blurry pictures of it because that shit apparently rocked me to my core—but enjoy this video I found of an earlier performance. The waterfall happens around the 3:45 mark:
And just in case I had any emotions still intact, Celine made sure to destroy them when she pulled out “The Show Must Go On” as her encore. That song is so tied to last year’s stunning Billboard Music Awards performance for me—and I can’t be the only one—that it gives me chills every time, and I always feel like I’ve just been on a JOURNEY by the time it ends. What an absolutely perfect way to end an amazing night. Either I need to suddenly fall into money, or she needs to go on tour in the States, because I am desperate to see her perform again. The ONLY thing I wish would have happened was that the Loved Me Back to Life album was represented a little more. I cannot stress enough how much of a game changer album that is. I flipped out more over the fact that she sang “Water and a Flame” at the TODAY show than I did at the hits because it is impossible to get enough of this album. “Incredible” made it onto the Vegas setlist, which I loved, but whenever I hear something from , I automatically want to hear more. My kingdom to be in the same room as her when she gets the sudden urge to sing “Somebody Loves Somebody.”
Classic Cher, or “What’s YOUR granny doing tonight?”
"We should find cake." -my mom, re: Cher's birthday.
Everyone get on her level.
— Sarah Irvin (@queenofquiet) May 20, 2017
We definitely got cake.
It had been three years since the Dressed to Kill tour, three years since I last saw Cher perform live, and I’m going to be honest, that weekend is pretty much impossible to one-up (free upgrade from nosebleed seats to the 14th row in Brooklyn, and then snagging the very last ticket to her Jersey show the following night, where I got another free upgrade from a nosebleed seat to a third-row side view). But this show came really close. Because Cher spent her 71st birthday closing out the first leg of this show. And she looked and sounded flawless doing it.
Here’s the deal: when the promotional stuff for Classic Cher was released, I thought it was going to be a completely different show than what it was. The majority of the ads featured photos of her from the 60’s and 70’s, so naturally I jumped to conclusions in a heartbeat and thought that this would finally, FINALLY, be the concert I had been dreaming of—the concert that was full of the earliest songs of her catalog, classics like “Living in a House Divided,” “Carousel Man,” “I Saw a Man and He Danced with His Wife,” and maybe I would finally get a full-length live version of “Dark Lady,”—aka the concert she probably put on when these songs first came out but I was a good forty years away from being even a thought in my parents’ minds, so I sadly missed out. Deep down, I knew that this in no way fits the aesthetic her recent shows are known for, but a girl can dream (and while this girl is dreaming, the second act of Imaginary Classic Cher would just be the entirety of the Stars album, please and thank you). It turns out that “Classic” in this case meant a Best Of compilation of the D2K and Farewell tours, with some bits reworked and reimagined, and some bits pulled directly from the tours because they were just too good. Am I mad? Not in the slightest. Those two tours make up my ultimate happy place, and I want to revisit that as often as I possibly can. So I am totally here for Classic Cher…in my sailor hat, of course.
By now, she’s made her entrance by floating down from the ceiling so many times that it isn’t truly a Cher performance if she doesn’t. Basically, she’s just gracing us mortals with her presence by descending from the heavens to hang out and sing some stuff for an hour and a half. And while I miss the opening song being “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” (a version that actually makes me forget that she didn’t do it first), I do love “Woman’s World” being the thing that sets the tone for the night, just like it did during D2K. And I’m really into the fact that it started a chain of badass lady anthems, because she went right from that to “Strong Enough.” And how do you continue the momentum of a chain of badass lady anthems? By giving the people a badass lady monologue to welcome them to the show…but not before we all had a chance to scream “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” to her (there were like three different rounds of the happy birthday song being sung at different times in my section alone, it was kind of hilarious that we couldn’t get it together for thirty seconds).
You guys, this woman has a penchant for monologues. She’s always hilarious, she always knows how to get the crowd invested (as if descending onto the stage from the goddamn ceiling isn’t enough). This one was all about age, peppered with references to her birthday. She boasted about her ability to do a five-minute plank (which, DAMN GIRL) and whipped out the trophy her brother-in-law made up to commemorate it. She talked about the phone call she got on her fortieth from the director of The Witches of Eastwick, telling her that she was too old and not sexy enough to be in it, and we all know she ended up being in that movie, but still I HAVE A BONE TO PICK WITH EVERYONE INVOLVED BECAUSE YOU ARE WRONG AND YOU KNOW IT. But she’s got the last word on the whole “too old” issue. She closed with what is quite possibly the biggest and best middle finger to any naysayers failing to make their case: “I am now 71 and I just have one question to ask you…what’s YOUR granny doing tonight?” (I’m just calling it right now: “What’s YOUR granny doing tonight?” is the “Follow this, you bitches” of Classic Cher…and if you have no idea what I’m talking about, allow me to direct you to the brilliance that is her Farewell Tour monologue, and ignore the part where she insists she’s “so totally farewell” because she’s obviously so totally not). Now, I’m not great at knowing when I should be recording things, but thankfully other people are, and someone uploaded the beginning of this show up until the monologue onto YouTube…bless the internet:
The bits she brought back from previous tours were thankfully the bits that were my favorites. She brought back the emotional duet of “I Got You Babe” with a video projection of Sonny. She brought back the funky treatment of “The Beat Goes On.” But most importantly…she brought back the elephant.
I don’t think you understand how much I love this elephant, you guys. When she made her entrance on it during the Farewell Tour, she made damn sure that would be the first thing I thought of whenever I thought about that show. At the time, she was about to go out with a bang, and that bang came in the form of a giant mechanical elephant moving around the stage to the Gayatri Mantra. Also, I have questions. It’s been about twelve years since the Farewell tour ended (for real this time), so…is that the same elephant? Or did they have to build a completely new elephant? Because if it’s the latter, holy shit, that’s commitment, and I love it.
Oh yeah, and then there was the time she rode in on a fucking gondola to sing “After All.” There’s really nothing more to add to this one, except for the fact that she’s amazing at picking things to make an entrance on. I just love the fact that there was a gondola made up, as well as a rig to get it to move along the stage and fog machines to create the illusion of water, for just four minutes. And then it was gone. Literally just for that song. The extravagance of it all…that’s what makes her the greatest.
And oddly enough, I’m grateful that I didn’t have floor seats this time, because the sets were absolutely AMAZING, and from my seat, I got a full view. Like it did in D2K, the stage essentially turned into the Burlesque set for “Welcome to Burlesque.” We were taken to the streets of Memphis for “Walking in Memphis” (complete with ads promoting a performance by “Chelvis,” aka Cher in Elvis drag, and can we talk about how killer she looks in Elvis drag?) And then for “The Shoop Shoop Song” it turns into this drive-in that I really need to be a real thing, because I would eat there every day and completely defeat the purpose of ever going to the gym:
At this point in the trip, my emotions are shot, and it doesn’t take much to get me to lose my shit (although, to be fair, it doesn’t take much to get me to lose my shit on a normal day, either). So when Cher sang “If I Could Turn Back Time” like she always does because hello iconic song, and she just casually rips off her leather jacket to serve killer 80’s bodysuit realness, I have a very vocal reaction:
I mean, come on, she’s 71 years old. If I look even half as good and move half as well when I’m 71, I’ll have led a good life. HOW DOES SHE SLAY SO HARD?
Finally, for the encore (which, do you even need to ask what song it was?), they recycled from the D2K tour, and I am so happy they did. I really need this to be the way they introduce “Believe” until the end of time, because it is so fucking fire, I can’t get enough of it (seriously, I would have written this post a lot faster if I didn’t get sidetracked by the first two minutes of this video so many times):
Will Classic Cher be the last show the queen diva puts on? Considering the fact that she was supposed to have put on her last show about three tours ago, who can ever be sure? But I am of the firm belief that even after the extended run of Classic Cher ends, she will keep on playing the Cherest Show on Earth. I mean…Believe turns twenty next year, think of the opportunities. Actually, while we’re on the subject…in the one-in-a-billion chance that Cher ever comes across my ramblings, I’d like to take this opportunity to speak to her directly:
Cher? Hi. It’s Sarah. Listen, love you, love everything about you. You get me through the rough times in my life, and I will be forever grateful. You put on a hell of a show, and I think you know it (and if you don’t know, now you do). So I’m just going to put this out there. I need a twentieth anniversary Believe tour from you. Need it. And I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say the world needs it. That album is the thing that reeled me in, so of course I have personal motives, but you know “Believe” is arguably your most beloved song. And that album is phenomenal. So why not put on a show where you sing the entire thing? And of course you can throw in some of the hits after that, but really, there’s no better way to celebrate that twenty-year milestone. Just think about it. Thank you for your time. Please go back to being the queen.
In all seriousness, though, I’m just thankful I got to be there. I thought the Farewell tour was going to be the only opportunity I had to see her perform—so I saw it three times—and I was always so sad about that back then, because I dove in too late, and because I wasn’t around to see any of the previous tours. But then the Colosseum residency got announced (which I couldn’t get to). And then D2K was announced (which I got to three times). And now Classic Cher. So while I may never know if this show REALLY is the last show, I love that she truly can’t say goodbye. Because I don’t want to say goodbye to my happy place.
Classic Cher starts back up again in August, but since I don’t know if I can make it back to Vegas so soon, if this ends up being the last time I see her perform, I’m so glad I can say it was on her birthday. And I am so glad I can say that it was Classic Cher.
The perfect end to a perfect weekend
As if I needed anything more from this weekend, the Billboard Music Awards were the 21st, and while I normally pay zero attention to that, this year was kind of a big deal. Because not only did Celine celebrate the twentieth anniversary of “My Heart Will Go On” by giving a stunning performance of it in some massive sleeves (can you even believe that we’ve been blessed with that song for twenty years?!), Cher was presented with the Icon Award after performing both “Believe” and “If I Could Turn Back Time.” And that award is rightfully hers. A career spanning six decades, with a number one single in each decade. Transformation after transformation after transformation without sacrificing who she is as an artist. An Emmy, three Golden Globes, an Oscar, a Grammy. She is an icon in every sense of the word. And then the speech happened:
“So, I’ve wanted to do what I do since I was four years old, and I’ve been doing it for fifty-three years. And that’s not an applause thing, I’m 71 yesterday…and I can do a five-minute plank, okay?”
To be able to say you’ve been doing what you’ve always wanted to do, and have been doing it for that long SUCCESSFULLY, is amazing. And I love the fact that she keeps bringing up the plank, because you go girl. I’m pretty sure I can only last fifteen seconds, and I’m 27 years old. Never stop bragging about it. My only wish was that she had that plank trophy in her other hand when she accepted the Icon Award.
…Wait I lied, I have two wishes. The first is the plank trophy thing. The second is that there was more of Celine singing and dancing along to Cher, because all I need in this life is for my diva worlds to collide like that all the time.
I mean, just look at that perfection. Look at how wonderful the world can be.
Have you seen Celine or Classic Cher? Do you love these divas like I do? Let’s compare notes in the comments!