Tina Turner headlines Madison Square Garden tonight.
photo by Adam Pantozzi/Prudential Center
Prudential Center, Newark
November 26, 2008
Madonna’s got a more blinged-out show and Beyoncé may be pop music’s queen bee, but Tina Turner laid their groundwork with a career that’s soared, crashed, and burnt out so many times that only an indomitable god-mama like herself could have possibly survived. Even after her well-deserved retirement in 2000, it only took one appearance, a jaw-dropping Grammy duet with Ms. Knowles in February, to restart her career. Now nearing the end of a months’ long U.S. jaunt, she’s held court at three dozen arenas–a splashy comeback tour for an iconic media-figure demands nothing less, even if it’s been a decade since her last album. But while her blockbuster “Twenty Four Seven” tour of 2000 leaned on r&b covers like, say, Otis’ “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” Turner’s back to concentrating on her 80’s chart smashes, sprinkled with the occasional Ike-era tune. Not surprising, then, that her current show’s full of guitar solos (too many to count) and keyboard players (three) meant to conjure up that glossy Reagan-era sound.
Doubters complain that Tina’s voice is cracked, but it’s been that way for decades, and she’s still got as much range as many AARP music stars (and much more than, say, Dylan). And why worry if she can still put on a two-hour spectacle with numerous costume changes? No need to: there were the James Bond and Mad Max stage sets, adorned by elaborate outfits and pyrotechnics that accompanied her movie theme songs–“Golden Eye,” “Acid Queen” and “We Don’t Need Another Hero.” (Note to producers: she wants another celluloid comeback.) And like her voice, she still knows how to use her legs–even in high heels, she kept up with her posse of dancers.
Adam Pantozzi/Prudential Center
Like the crossover artist she is, Turner spent the night mixing genres like a world-class DJ. Classic rock was represented with a frayed version of the Beatles’ “Help!,” a Vegas-soul Stones medley (“Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “It’s Only Rock and Roll”), and the inevitable roof-raiser “Proud Mary” done nice ‘n’ rough. But there was also simmering r&b (Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” and Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand the Rain” both done seated!) and some respectable blues (“Undercover Agent,” “Steamy Windows”). That’s not even mentioning her own soul-diva hits: “What’s Love Got To Do With It” as a battle of the sexes sing-a-long (during which she gleefully chided the fellas in the house, “Are you gonna let us ladies win?”); a sweet, hurt take on “Private Dancer”; and “Better Be Good To Me” as an extended chant and gospel stomp. It was mighty impressive for a woman celebrating her 69th b-day on stage, with Beyoncé and her hubby in attendance, no less, and probably taking notes. —Jason Gross