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The Riot Act- Divas Las Vegas, May 26, 2002
Guest_TSMAdmin_*
post Oct 2 2002, 09:03 AM
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The Riot Act

Review of "Divas Las Vegas"

In further proof that God does, in fact, exist and is now solely motivated by his unbridled hatred for me, VH1 followed up a full week of diva-centric programming with a special entitled "Divas Las Vegas." Featuring some of the most popular female musicians around today (and Whitney Houston), it promised to be a genuinely painful testament to the public's fascination with marginally talented women who can do a sort of lilty thing with their voices. This, I felt, was a perfect opportunity to spew some of my patented "Riot Act" venom on a few totally deserving hose beasts. And then I ended up liking a lot of it. Sue me.

-Your host for this evening's festivities is the one and only Ellen Degeneres, who I suspect to be gay. Wayne Newton's also hanging around and serving no purpose, which seems to be his niche in the music industry.

- Does the prospect of Ellen Degeneres singing Salt n Pepa's "Shoop" whilst gyrating around with a group of scantily-clad male dancers sound like a rollicking good time to you? If you replied "Yes," then the opening segment is definitely for you. If you said "No," then welcome to the fucking club. This was a really cringe-inducingly unfunny way of getting across the point that Ellen is a lesbian.

-Ellen then decided to deliver a monologue, but is too winded to do so. Between frightening bouts with respiratory failure , she manages to squeak out that this it's going to be an amazing show. Oh, and it's promoting feminism. I'll buy that for a dollar.

-Our first *real* performance of the evening comes from Anastacia, who I've never heard of, and Celine Dion. They're performing a cover of AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long." Seriously. Celine prances on stage playing some of the ugliest air guitar I've ever seen. She's either never held the instrument before or was taught to play it around her knees. Having never seen Celine perform live before, it came as something of a shock to see how much dancing she does. Terrible, terrible dancing that will no doubt haunt my dreams for weeks to come. But, still. You go, Celine! Both ladies make a valiant effort here, which is commendable. Two women who look as though they've never listened to anything harder than Billy Joel covering AC/DC is not so commendable, however. They're both wearing shirts with frilly stuff hanging from the arms, which I believe to be an homage to fellow diva Oprah's more natural approach to pulling that look off. This wasn't as terrible as you might imagine, though. I give it: **

-That good will is destroyed, however, with the emergence of Cher, performing "Believe." She emerges from the crowd, which is probably as close to the proletariats as she's gotten since Sonny Bono's funeral. She seems to be attempting to best that young whippersnapper Britney Spears in the category of "Most Obvious Televised Lip Synching." Seriously, Cher. Have some pride in your work. Despite being in her mid 80s, Cher still looks like a 30 year old. A 30 year old who's recovering from a massive stroke, granted; but a 30 year old nonetheless. She's blonde here, wearing a puffy black and white pantsuit. It's about as hideous as it sounds. At about the mid-way point, she actually starts singing. Good for her. That would go some way in explaining why her performance is so goddamn dull. I give it: 1/2*

-Ellen says something, but I'm not going to bother going over it. From this point forward, I'm not going to mention Ellen unless she says or does something interesting. So don't expect much Ellen for the rest of the show. Lucky you.

-Hey! More fucking Cher! She's apparently changed into a snakeskin jacket, leather pants, and what appears to be a chastity belt. Yeah, like that's fooling anyone. The song could very well be called "Song for the Lonely," but I'm not really up on my Cher enough to tell you. I assure you that it isn't worth hearing, however, and trust that you'll believe me. Unlike Celine Dion, Cher's dancing is limited to some modest shuffling and occasional arm swinging. I'd like to toss the "limited mobility due to advanced age" theory out there. Cher is somewhat lacking as a performer, needless to say, and the fact that she owes her entire career to a song Sonny Bono wrote in the late 60s ain't impressing me one bit. 1/2*

-My opinion isn't worth much, apparently, as Cher stays out for a third song: the classic "If I Could Turn Back Time." Sadly, she's not wearing the outfit from the video and the stage isn't surrounded by randy sailors. If I could turn back time, I'd come up with a real column idea so I wouldn't feel obligated to watch and review this show. Thankfully, that spunky little Cyndi Lauper (w/o Capt. Lou Albano) emerges to vocally blow Cher off the stage. She isn't even that good, to be honest, but anything tops Cher's "swallowing my tonsils" approach to singing. By the end of the performance, they're both dogging it and the sound is just horrendous. Godawful. I'm not even going to rate this.

-And along come the Dixie Chicks to save the show. They're in the sort of countrified garb that's suitable for both church wear and corn shucking. Let me just say this: Thank god for "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" for making the country/folk performance mandatory at all award shows and specials. It's all here: The banjo, the fiddle, the acoustic guitar, and so on. The song appears to be called "Long Time Gone," and is a very subtle indictment of the rest of the crap we're going to have to deal with on this show. Whether the Dixie Chicks know it or not. This was really good, by the way. ****

-Now it's Shakira's turn to destroy my enthusiasm. She's playing with a full band, featuring acoustic guitars, bongos, and a piano. Good for her. Unfortunately, it sounds like she's been taking vocal lessons from Cher. In addition to applying some below-average "diva" vocals to a perfectly serviceable song, Shakira also plays the harmonica. Not the sort of John Pooper-esque harmonica theatrics you'd expect for such a bombastic show, either. The whole thing is pretty underwhelming, although the effort was there. **

-The show is suddenly and unexpectedly redeemed, however, by the presence of David Hasselhoff! He's just in the audience, though, and it's quickly forgetten. The Wayne Newton glass ceiling is in place, I see.

-We get our first shot of non-white entertainment with a performance by Mary J. Blige. Ja Rule is shown singing on a screen in the back. God knows *that* guy needs more exposure. The camera manages to find the four black people in attendance, and they seem reasonably excited. And because Cher is no longer around to raise my ire, Whitney Houston makes her annual public appearance. No word on whether or not she saw her shadow. I'm immediately reminded of that old anecdote about the visible cocaine on Neil Young's nose in the unedited version of "The Last Waltz." Not sure why. With Whitney around, the whoop-fest quickly commences. Rather than singing, which she does quite well, she opts to yell a lot and mug for the audience, thus extending the song beyond the realm of acceptability. The first part was decent, though. **

-More Mary J. Blige. She performs "No More Drama," which sounds great. No Whitney, either, so this segment is fine by me. I'm haunted by that piano melody, though, because I know it's sampled from somewhere. I just don't know where. Eh. Either way, Mary proceeds to tear down the house and I'm now perilously close to enjoying this show. Someone call Cher out, quick! Got a little melodramatic near the end, but damn good. ***1/2

-The Dixie Chicks are back. Two observations: That singer's gotten huge, first of all. I know she had a kid, but damn. Also, they're *much* better live. Whoever produces their albums need to either be fired or shot. I'm really digging "Wide Open Spaces" here, but I dislike the studio version. The Dixie Chicks rule, by the way. I support anyone willing to perform actual country music, rather than the terrible "Modern Country" nonsense everyone else seems content to release at this point. As if I needed another reason to enjoy this segment, Hasselhoff is up and dancing! Great. ***

-Ellen and Wayne Newton break in to remind us why this event is being held with a series of exceedingly awkward and unfunny exchanges. You can't fake that sort of anti-chemistry--it's clear that the two have never met before.

-Hey, Stevie Nicks is out to make me hate the Dixie Chicks! Ah, but they're playing "Landslide" so all is forgiven. I thought Billy Corgan proved that this song should never be covered several years ago, but they give it the old college try. It sounds pretty good, too, especially with Stevie's mic turned almost all the way down. This is really one of the two or three Fleetwood Mac/Stevie Nicks songs that I like, and they did it justice here. ****

-Anastacia is back out to show us her hilarious Cher impression. Maybe I'm the only one who noticed that. This is very R&B-ish, and I'd contest that the majority of female R&B has been severely lacking since the 1960s. So if this isn't Lauryn Hill, then I'm not really interested. She doesn't do anything to change my mind. *

-Mary J. Blige then joins Anastacia on stage to perform Pat Benatar's "Love Is A Battlefield." At least it isn't Britney Spears, I guess. This sounds *way* over the top compared to Benatar's understated vocals. But Shakira is hot and Mary J. Blige is talented, so I can't commit to hating it. Still, pretty annoying. *

-Celine! Man, she is so much more animated than I expected. It doesn't matter that she's about as graceless as Elaine from "Seinfeld" when it comes to dancing; at least she's giving it a shot. I guess this is called "I'm Alive." Pretty generic Celine Dion stuff. It warrants nothing more than that. 1/2*

-More Celine! This sounds awfully similar to the last song. Goofy facial expressions galore as Celine gives up the dancing to get all heart-felt and stuff. On the bright side, VH1 will probably edit this all out later--Celine's outfit isn't nearly gaudy enough to compete with the other divas. Man, this song is terrible. No chorus or bridge or anything; just a straight line of "blah" from beginning to end. It could be called "A New Day." I honestly don't know. 1/2*

-Never one to buck tradition, VH1 arranges to have all of the divas who aren't currently coked-up out of their minds come out on stage for the Big-Ass Show Finale. This year, it's a tribute to Elvis. Anastacia does "Jailhouse Rock" for about ten seconds, and I'm reminded of why I dislike her. The Dixie Chicks sing something I've never heard before and do it well enough. Shakira, whose voice grates on me, sings "You Were Always On My Mind." It's hard to ruin a great song, but the effort was there. Mary J. Blige sings "Blue Suede Shoes," and it pretty much blows. Stevie Nicks sounds comparatively human singing something or other. Cher, dressed as alternate universe Elvis, sings ten seconds of "Heartbreak Hotel." Unfortunately, I'll now always associate that song with The Rock, so I'm too busy trying to figure out which PPV he did that on to pay attention to this crap. The verdict: "St. Valentine's Day Massacre." Celine closes it out by singing "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You" in her drawn-out diva voice.

-It ends with a brief reprise of "You Shook Me All Night Long." Before Celine can commence knocking me out with those French-Canadian thighs, they pan out and the show ends.

The Verdict: This wasn't anything I'd ever watch again, but I ended up liking it a lot more than I expected to. The only really offensive portions of the show were Cher's performances and Ellen's lackluster comedy bits. Nothing other than the Dixie Chicks was particularly great, but I still feel compelled to give it a thumbs in the middle. I mean, Hasselhoff dances! Celine Dion plays air guitar! How could anyone *not* like this show?

Send feedback, Celine Dion dancing horror stories, etc. to [email protected]
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