The Farewell Tour

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Originally broadcast as an NBC television special, this is the visual record of Cher's November 8, 2002 concert on the Miami stop of her farewell tour. Like Cher's show, and perhaps like Cher herself, it's as garish and over-the-top as the stage prop elephant on which she rides at one point. Is that a strong recommendation or a severe caution? It all depends on your tastes. Certainly it would be a strong recommendation to the ecstatic, she-can-do-no-wrong crowd in front of which this was filmed (with 25 cameras, no less). Whatever your opinion about Cher, the spectacle of her show, and the attendant audiovisual production, is downright impressive. There are almost as many costume and wig changes as there are songs (and there are quite a few songs, numbering about 20 in all); the numerous on-stage dancer-acrobats are bedecked in similarly eye-bruising, sometimes outlandish costumes; and a huge video screen hovers over the proceedings, sometimes showing clips and even animation from her past musical, television, and film performances, going all the way back to the mid-'60s. Take all the expense involved in the staging, the costumes, lighting, crew support, and television production, and you may well have a balance sheet that exceeds the annual gross national product of some third world nations. Split-screen footage and numerous angles capture the circus-like atmosphere effectively, though to be cruel, those who lost interest in Cher's music sometime in the 1970s might find the vintage clips more exciting than the stage show. And the music might be one of the less-impressive aspects of the whole enterprise, focusing as it does on her dance-oriented hits from the late 1980s through the early 2000s (with a tossed-off medley of her '60s-'70s hits thrown in), and sometimes threatening to become almost incidental to the theatrics. It's certainly a far superior souvenir of the show, though, than the CD of the same concert (Live: The Farewell Tour), not only because it has visuals, but also because it has some between-song monologues and action that didn't make it onto the album. And there are bonus features aplenty, including three extra songs (not on the CD); the music video (in a 2003 re-edit) of "If I Could Turn Back Time"; a 20-minute "behind-the-scenes" documentary of preparation for the show; extra monologues; and, most bizarrely, a ten-minute re-enactment of West Side Story in which Cher plays and sings all the parts (excerpts of this are seen in the main program as well). It's all a bit too much, frankly, but like Cher's concerts, it can't be accused of not offering value for the money.