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Iconic performer Cher brings sass, style, song to KeyBank Center

Surely, you’ve seen Niagara Falls. Maybe the Grand Canyon. But have you ever seen Cher?

In the flesh, draped in Bob Mackie, zipped up from boot to wig, strutting and hair-flipping her way through a half-century career’s worth of iconic looks and indelible hits? A few stories of yesteryear? And more souvenirs than any home altar could ever need?

Who needs a concession stand with a snack like that?

Cher dropped from the heavens (a flying platform) onto the KeyBank Center stage Friday night for one night only – and made it count. This particular outing, the “Here We Go Again Tour,” comes on the studded heels of 2018’s “Dancing Queen,” an album of ABBA covers inspired by her big-screen comeback in “Mamma Mia 2.” (Why this wasn’t called “Cher We Go Again,” I’ll never know. Moving on.)

If you have seen her, either on one on her many farewell tours since 2003, or in residency in Las Vegas – or maybe you go back to “The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour” – then you know the drill. It’s all about her hair, her masculine purr, her take-no-prisoners attitude, and a catalog of songs that make most people hum. Her stage show hasn’t changed much in the last couple decades, save for a few song swaps and a few new looks. All the classics are there, just as you remember them.

In all honesty, I’ve never been a huge fan. I’ve always respected and appreciated her, not only for her singular value to the performing arts, but for her politicized feminist voice, the one that won’t put up with a man’s disrespect, or with a woman’s self-shame. She’s a warrior in many ways, and that’s always been the best trick in her bag. (Follow her on Twitter for a daily sample.)

But seeing her walk on stage in a mane of black curls, a barely there black leotard, fishnets and leather boots to perform “If I Could Turn Back Time” is something I never thought I’d appreciate so much. The confidence that she has. The legs, at 72, that she has. The power over a sold-out arena of all ages that she has. It was spectacular – and she never sounded better.

Missing was the signature trilogy of “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” “Half-Breed” and “Dark Lady,” whose combined choruses account for at least 40 percent of conversation at any reputable gay bar. These gems were missed but maybe it’s OK for the moment; cultural sensitivity is in these days.

In its place, we took a spectacular karaoke trip to Sweden for ABBA’s “Waterloo,” “SOS” and “Fernando.” Cher’s recording career has tapped most musical genres but disco is her sweet spot. A Grecian rendezvous with Benny, Bjorn and Meryl is all we needed in 2018, and we got it.

Other ethnic sojourns included a generically Indian trip to 1999’s “All or Nothing” that posited this guru atop a miniature elephant clearly inspired by Julie Taymor’s “Lion King” safari. This followed an opening segment fashioned after the Roman Coliseum, translated into a teased orange wig that would make Vogue’s Grace Coddington gasp. Gladiators in tow, it is a “Woman’s World,” indeed.

Let’s see. Where else did we go. Oh, a stop in the heartland to pay tribute to her love of Elvis, with a tender “Walking in Memphis” and boppy “The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss).” A loving tribute to the late Sonny Bono with “The Beat Goes On” and “I Got You Babe” felt just right. So did her wandering story about the couple of times she turned 40.

“Believe,” her 1999 comeback single that effectively paved the way for the last 20 years of her career, made for a youthful and Gaga-esque finale. I do believe in love, Cher, I do.

Not to be outdone, the legendary Nile Rodgers and Chic kicked things off with a set list of gold-star home runs. His backup singers led most vocals, with a string of knockout moments from Kimberly Davis. From David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” to the Diana Ross hit “I’m Coming Out” to Pharrell’s “Get Funky” – plus Chic’s own “Le Freak” – this set list was insane. It’s hard to imagine anyone topping Nile Rodgers. Except Cher; she's always been the top.

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