Bette Midler’s tour names are inspired: The Divine Miss M Tour. Clams on the Half Shell Revue. The Depression Tour. Divine Madness. De Tour. Kiss My Brass.
“They just come to me in a haze when I’m dropping off to sleep,” Midler, 69, says. “I’ve had some good ones.”
The latest, Divine Intervention, opens its 22-city North American leg Friday and Saturday at Hard Rock Live near Hollywood and concludes with a five-city European jaunt in July. As the sassy, brassy Midler might say: “A global revue, if you will.”
But for all of the suggestions of the divine, a down-to-earth and engaged Midler takes to the phone to promote her tour. Our chat happened in late March, during tour rehearsals in Los Angeles, soon after President Barack Obama re-established relations with Cuba. Midler opens with a question. She’s curious about Cuban reaction in Miami.
“I’m in a bubble to do this show and surrounded by musicians and dancers and choreographers and bad food,” she quips. She does read the papers, though, in between deciding whether to put her frisky cover of Beast of Burden back in the set or not. Has an active Twitter account, too.
“I’m half plugged-in. I still need help, but I kind of like it, and there are pieces I’ve been able to pick up and enjoy and other stuff that doesn’t apply. So what if I can’t take 10 pounds off my body by Photoshopping? I have people to do that for me!”
Divine Intervention also promises a quite human form of Midler, too. “I’m an emotional singer. That’s why they come to me.”
The Oscar-nominated Midler is old school. Her 1979 film The Rose is being reissued as a Criterion Collection Blu-ray on May 19, and she’s as excited as its fans. “They did a beautiful job restoring it. I’m so proud of it. I do think it’s the best rock ’n’ roll movie ever made.” In concert, she talks to her audience. Technology, like giant screens, is kept to a minimum.
“I’m afraid people aren’t going to look at me. I try to keep it simple. I think people like that about me. A lot of people don’t talk. They put on a show you sit at, but you’re not engaged. My thing, I like to engage, like Harry Belafonte used to. It’s my stock in trade,” Midler says.
“The basics are kind of important. ... I can’t say I’m Michelangelo, but I can understand chipping away at it until it reveals itself. It’s been fun so far. New band. Old girls. But in new positions.”
Midler is touring to support her current album, It’s the Girls!, a tribute to girl groups from The Shangri-Las to TLC. She also plans to incorporate songs from her catalog like The Rose, Wind Beneath My Wings and Friends, songs that have grown in resonance through life experience since she emerged from the Continental Baths in 1972.
“They are reflecting what everybody was going through, and now look what happened to us. Wasn’t it interesting? It’s looking back in a funny way that makes you sort of proud that you came through the fire and did the best you could, and you were true to yourself, and that means a lot to people,” she says.
“When you see a band, like Fleetwood Mac, especially, who went through it and came out the other side and reconciled and forgave and fell in love all over again, that gives people a lot of comfort and a lot of joy. It’s very interesting,” Midler says.
“I can’t say I grew. I’m still 5-foot-and-a-half. But I’m engaged. I’m really engaged.”
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If you go
What: Bette Midler opens her Divine Intervention Tour
Where: Hard Rock Live, 1 Seminole Way, near Hollywood
When: 8 p.m. Friday and May 9
Information: Call 800-937-0010