“The beat goes on …” Cher’s “Dressed to Kill” tour at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena

Heart of Stone

Heart of Stone

This review of Cher’s “Dressed to Kill” tour stop at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena will not mention anything about how good she looks or how great she sounds or how well she moves or her stamina, all of which seem to be referenced by other reviewers with the qualifier “for her years.” These remarks annoy me for many reasons, chiefly that they are ageist and sexist and demeaning and, well, just plain dumb. Cher is an awe-inspiring pro regardless the era of her storied career.

A Woman's World

A Woman’s World





With that disclaimer out of the way, the show kicks ass. Yes, she employs the arena spectacle template that Madonna and Janet Jackson perfected in the 90s, but she definitely makes it her own. (Some might argue that Cher actually invented the genre with her “Take Me Home” tour in the 70s/80s.) There are plenty of Cirque du Soleil style moves from her backup dancers, a thunderously tight band, and all manner of pyrotechnics and digital displays.

And the costumes. Oh, the costumes. Rather famously, Bob Mackie had to withdraw from his long-time professional relationship with Cher because he couldn’t handle the demands of this tour. Well, whoever filled his sequined loafers did a fantastic job. Cher, with a knowing wink to her audience, proceeds seamlessly (pun intended) through just about every iconic outfit of her forty-plus year career, including the ginormous Native American headdress and that leather-thong-up-her-derrière get up.

Cher ... of Troy?

Cher … of Troy?

Unlike some other pop stars, who shall remain nameless, Cher sings full voice throughout, with no apparent backing vocals other than those provided by the onstage backup singers. She doesn’t seem to lip-sync for one moment. I know that should go without saying when you pay exorbitant prices for concert tickets, but I’ve seen plenty of stars in recent years quite obviously mouthing along to prerecorded vocals.

Cher covers all of the major hits, and even some forgotten ones. But her strongest moments are when she breaks through all the Vegas glitz, and talks directly to us in that inimitable, down-to-earth, saucy style.

Her tribute to Sonny Bono is touching without being maudlin, and her overview of her film career is surprisingly moving, given how uneven some of those movies have been.

The Beat Goes On

The Beat Goes On

(At one moment tonight, she let loose a delightfully irreverent diatribe about her addiction to Dr. Pepper and how the company has never given her any swag in her decades of drinking the stuff, save one shabby cooler filled with a lowly six pack after one of her recent shows. She also told the crowd that her cat was rescued from under a tour bus on another concert stop in Detroit years ago. “He’s a Malibu cat now,” she drawled in that distinctive contralto of hers.)

She is at her best when she just stands still and SINGS (!), including “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me,” an underrated gem from her last cinematic foray Burlesque. The song is lyrically perfect for a performer who has launched about four “farewell tours” in the last decade.

Benatar and Giraldo

Benatar and Giraldo

The mod 1960s montage of hits from “The Beat Goes On” through “Half Breed” is also a high point. Cher efficiently glides through those numbers, giving us just enough to remember how much we love those songs and not so much that we realize how darn silly they are.

Opening act, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo are outstanding as well. They shred gleefully through all their 80s classics, having a ball tonight as they celebrated their 32nd wedding anniversary with all of us at Joe Louis Arena. Benatar’s vocals are crisp and throaty as ever, and Giraldo proves what an amazing guitarist he is over and over. And I really don’t give a hoot about guitarists, but I was impressed.




Cher and Benatar are wonderful examples of smart, savvy, witty women – no, strike that last word and replace it with people. They have given their all to the entertainment industry and yet retain strikingly distinctive senses of self. Their authenticity should give hope to all the young performers out there who may be tempted to sell their souls to the devil. Cher likely would wink and nod, flip her hair, and say, “Don’t sell your soul to the devil … just give it to him on consignment … whoooaaahhh.”


Dinner before at Ferndale's Local Kitchen

Dinner before at Ferndale’s Local Kitchen



Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Please check out this coverage from BroadwayWorld of upcoming book launch events. In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan; by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan; and by Memory Lane Gift Shop in Columbia City, Indiana. Bookbound, Common Language, and Memory Lane also have copies of Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series.

31 thoughts on ““The beat goes on …” Cher’s “Dressed to Kill” tour at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena

  1. “Yes, she borrows the arena spectacle template that Madonna and Janet Jackson perfected in the 90s, but she definitely makes it her own.”

    — you clearly don’t know your “Cher” history, otherwise you would be aware that the template was created by Cher herself since the late 1970s. Take a look ate her “Take Me Home” tour videos on youtube and you’ll see it – huge props, dozen dancers (mostly gay men), drag queens, choreography and of course wild costumes…
    We, Cher fans, really don’t appreciate when something like this is over-looked by journalists and reviewers a like…

    beside this, it’s a really nice read all in all…

  2. GREAT article Roy, u nailed it on much, i will agree with MarselleBlue, its the job of Journalists to do their research b4 educating the public, i will give u credit u do mention: “Some might argue that Cher actually invented the genre with her “Take Me Home” tour in the 70s/80s.) There are plenty of Cirque du Soleil style moves from her backup dancers, a thunderously tight band, and all manner of pyrotechnics and digital displays”
    Lets be honest and educate those that have been fooled for so many years,, WHAT OTHER WOMAN was doing these kind of concerts?! madonna was not even around yet! JJ was still in diapers! CHER gets little credit for being the first to introduce ideas, just like BEING the first to have a MUSIC VIDEO, “TAKE ME HOME” YES my fried she is the first,,
    she is due an amazing cover story, with great research to credit her accordingly, a tribute, 50 years in the making,, who is still around kicking ass,, !?

    • You are truly a superfan! That is a wonderful tribute to her. And, yup, I added that note about the Take Me Home tour from this feedback. Great to know about the music video too. As for being a journalist, this amateur blogger is honored by the upgrade you gave me! 🙂

  3. Roy u write beautifully and ur review on CHER’S D2K tour was VERY postive, they all have been,, but some journalist, just leave out that 1 or 2 thing that makes all the difference in the world,, glad u mentioned that “Some might argue that Cher actually invented the genre with her “Take Me Home” tour in the 70s/80s.)! yes i am a big fan, all cause of my late brother, who was older and left me all his collection on CHER, in person she is the most amazing person, Fem, soft, gentle, sincere, no DIVA attitude, EVEN THOU she is one of the very few ORIGINAL DIVAS!! i’ve had the pleasure to meet CHER on several occassions. thank u for ur time

  4. this was a wonderfully written review roy, and i really like the point you made in the first paragraph. i would have loved this show and she is a star who gives her all to the audience, at a time when she could rest on her laurels, but she refuses to go away quietly, and i admire her for that. )

  5. Good review, but I must correct you on the outfits in the show. 4 of the costumes are in fact done by Mackie. The 60’s number, the Half Breed, the Turn Back Time and the Believe are all Bob Mackie outfits. I am not a fan of the new designer, if you look at his and look at Mackie’s you can see the total difference in the craftsmanship, and quality. Other than that..the concert is great. I am glad I got to see Benatar with her. What would top that if they did a duet together!

  6. Really an awfull review, please Roy learn about music history or at least search it in google about Cher. She’s the pioneer of the concerts, you don’t have any idea to the contribution of Cher in the show business. Cher have many great concerts and this is not the first time, Janet, Madonna, Kylie or Britney are walking in the way paved of Cher! Cher’s #DTK Concert is inspired in many of her concert as solo singer or with Sonny ! For example her Take Me Home Tour (1979) was first before that any other female concert with dancers, big lights and controversial outfits! When you are writting a review first you should know about the artist, it’s a worldwide known rule if you are a real journalist! Please!

    • thanks, Carlos – appreciate your input and sorry you didn’t like the review. overall I was very complimentary of the production, and you should note that I do acknowledge the Take Me Home tour based on feedback I got earlier today from another fan. I’m not a journalist but an amateur blogger sharing my observations on a fabulous show. yes, Cher set the template for these shows, and Madonna and Janet and the others have benefited from that and advanced the form, but Cher owns it. thanks for your feedback

    • SHE HAS broken all the rules, and started some new n great ones yet the media/critics give her ZERO credit,,IE rock hall of fame, what the hell they waiting for,?! she needs to be recognized as a dual and solo artist,,
      lets not forget CHER also was the first to have ever put out an actual MUSIC VIDEO( HELL ON WHEELS), how many ppl know this??

  7. You go Roy I love Cher and always have she is a wonderful performer and she is a wonderful lady too. Thank you for saying what you did. I hope to see her perform again before I leave this world.

  8. 😉 who but I could understand cher? and what it’s like to be misunderstood? join the club, roy! <3!!! it's a special group…we welcome you. your talent is amazing…to be misjudged is a jewel in the crown! wheeeee!

    • You are very sweet! And, yes, her sense of humor and approach to life definitely reminded me of yours. And I am honored to be part of such a club. I know you were speaking from experience. It is one wacky world full of people with hairtrigger impulses and an inability to understand nuance. Yippee.


      • funny, teaching kindergarten, most people would think your impulsive behavior and clueless in the nuance arena description in your comment would apply to these littles, but sadly it really applies to some adults –

      • amen, sister! amen! I never knew writing about Cher would be such a lightning rod! 🙂 I thought I’d get some guff about my Captain America review. nope! but Cher on the other hand …

        On Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 10:09 AM, Reel Roy Reviews wrote:


  9. Pingback: “The beat goes on …” Cher’s “Dressed to Kill” tour at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena by Roy Sexton (Reel Roy Reviews)

  10. Very well done review, Roy. I enjoyed reading it. You were thorough, realistic and very positive. It’s clear that you enjoyed the concert. Yes, Cher is her own woman, her own artist; and she paved the way for many.

  11. Pingback: “and i was so happy to be a part of it all” – April 26 author event at Ann Arbor’s Bookbound « Reel Roy Reviews

  12. Pingback: Flattery will get you everywhere: Gone With The Wind Q&A with Bob Mackie « Reel Roy Reviews

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