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[The Strip Sense]

Why Vegas can’t wait for Celine Dion to return

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Cher’s Vegas finale felt rote and rushed to Steve Friess.
Photo: James Glader

Prediction! Someday soon, Cher will be on a red carpet or on Piers Morgan’s show and someone will ask about her recently ended run at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace. Cher’s response will be some variation not of nostalgia, pride or gratitude but of snarky relief that it’s over and a disclosure about what a bear that gig was.

How do I know? Well, I don’t, but at Cher’s finale on Saturday I had the sense that she could not be out of there fast enough. There was absolutely no emotion, no sense that this was a special occasion, no affection offered for the city and resort that had just deposited serious coin in her overflowing piggy bank. Heck, she didn’t even say goodbye when it was all over, instead high-fiving some band member and then disappearing out the back door of the Colosseum stage. She seemed so disengaged, in fact, that she didn’t even grab a sailor’s hat from the audience to cavort with in her penultimate number, “If I Could Turn Back Time.” For those unschooled in The Cher, that would be like the pope forgetting communion.

She’s not the first to depart the Colosseum with more shrug than ceremony. Months before Elton John ended The Red Piano in 2008, he was on Larry King Live letting slip how bored he was. Said Sir Elton to Lar: “Then I’ll be at Caesars Palace in Vegas where I do a 90-minute show and halfway through I’ll be like, ‘When is this over?’”

And, of course, Bette Midler told the Daily Telegraph of London in November she regarded the latter stages of her Vegas tenure as akin to being on the Titanic. That all but confirmed what I wrote in this space after The Showgirl Must Go On ended, that it seemed like an unhappy residency. Bette crazies vivisected me for that, as I’ve no doubt the Cher cuckoos will this week. Bring it on.

But why? Why is the most prestigious gig west of Manhattan such an exhausting bummer to these folks? It should be an honor to perform at the Colosseum, a gorgeous 4,000-seat showroom outfitted with the world’s most advanced stage technology not designed by Cirque du Soleil.

Can you imagine Bette or Elton whining about what a drag it was to perform at Carnegie Hall or Wembley? Those cities and the audiences who paid to see them would be aghast. Yet every night of her tenure, Bette only half-jokingly noted the vastness of the stage and how tiring it was to traverse. I’ve no clue why Elton was so worn out, seeing how he almost never stood up from the piano bench.

All of this makes me ever so much more grateful that Queen Celine re-ascends for a second run next month. Do you remember her farewell when ...A New Day closed in 2007? It was marked by star-studded audiences and bouquets of roses and lots and lots of tears. She was genuinely sad and cognizant that an era of her life was ending. It mattered to her.

Contrast that to Saturday night. After Cher walked out, the screen came down. The crowd, some expecting a moment that hadn’t yet taken place, roared for one more last-night-ever curtain call. Instead, after a few tantalizing minutes, the house lights came up. So devoted and appreciative were members of this demanding audience that they continued to stomp and scream for another 10 minutes or so. No luck; Cher was probably already seated at Guy Savoy by the time her wretches realized they would leave unacknowledged.

Celine would never have done that. Many of us didn’t credit her for what it took to do what she did at the Colosseum in her first run because (a) she was first and (b) she made it all look so easy.

This time, I hope we appreciate her. Lord knows, unlike her successors, she certainly appreciates us.

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Steve Friess

Steve Friess is a freelance journalist based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His work has appeared in the New York Times, ...

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