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CHER DAZZLES WITH HER COSTUMES, THRILLS WITH HER VOICE

If anticipation were gasoline, the entire stage of Marine Midland Arena would have erupted in flames Sunday night as Cher made her entrance on a 20-foot riser, garbed in a Druid costume and a blazing red wig.

The audience ate her up like candy, and all night she looked as comfortable as a kitten in a basket, making costume changes between every couple of songs and singing her heart out.

A logo of Cher's name that looked like a medieval coat of arms dominated the stage, but not as powerfully as the diva's diva, whose voice has the ability to raise goose bumps on a rhino's hide.

Her wide emotional range and instinctive feel for contemporary music always has been at the center of her flourishing career.

I couldn't care less if Cher has had a million dollars worth of plastic surgery or that she's hiding a Dorian Grey-like painting in some cubbyhole in her Hollywood digs. I love her sass, style and especially that voice.

You had to believe that her choice to open with U-2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" was one of the many sly clues to her personality.

Film clips separated her musical presentation into three eras. The sexy opening clip featured plenty of skin, tattooed cheeks and ogling sailors on a ship and introduced music from her album "Believe."

"All or Nothing," "The Power" and "We All Sleep Alone" gave her plenty of opportunity to show off a crystal clear voice that had the crowd continually on its feet.

The second clip led into excerpts from the Sonny and Cher television show and again demonstrated the classy lady's gift for wearing outrageous clothes and looking natural in them.

A medley of older hits -- "Halfbreed," "Take Me Home," "Dark Lady" and "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" -- followed and was pure manna from heaven.

Video screens provided close-up shots of the singer who has had number one hits in every one of the past four decades.

She definitely seemed to be having the time of her life. I suspect the reason she performs is that it is the only time she really feels like she's communicating with an audience.

Cher commands the stage with a self-deprecating sense of humor that is as engaging as it is funny. Describing her red hair and wizardlike apparel, she called it her "Darth Maul" look.

She may not possess Wonder Woman's magical bracelets but for over three decades she has been able to ward off the ravages of time and in the process become a cultural icon and a role model for independent women everywhere who see in her their own possibilities.

Encoring with "Believe," she made sure everyone went home a believer.

Opening acts Julio Iglesias Jr. and Michael McDonald provided music for young and old segments of the audience. Iglesias charmed like a recent graduate of Menudo, and McDonald used his hits while with the Dobbie Brothers to win approval.

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