Last Night: Tina Turner at the HP Pavilion
Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008
HP Pavilion, San Jose
Review By Jennifer Maerz
Better than: Watching Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
It's hard to think of today's pop singers aging as well as Tina Turner.
Strutting around the HP Pavilion stage in sparkling black Christian Louboutin heels, the woman proved she's still a powerhouse whose presence fills an arena at age 68 (she turns 69 at the end of Nov.). Although Turner has lived a life more turbulent than 99 percent of today's tabloid fodder, she holds up as a symbol of strength instead of tragedy, and lessons in her longevity should be required reading for young wannabe divas everywhere.
Turner gave a three hour version of said lesson (give or take the 30 minute intermission) last night in San Jose. Through a video montage (displaying her with all the biggies -- Ike, Mick, Bowie) and through theatrical renditions of her most popular singles, she delivered her songbook complete with backing dancers, explosions of fire, and fireworks. "My show tonight is a recap of most of my songs from the past," she announced after opening the night with "Steamy Windows" and "Typical Male." "And I hope you like it." From all the jumping and clapping and squealing around me, I'd say people were pretty into it.
Her setlist definitely included the Reagan Era crowdpleasers ("Better Be Good to Me," "What’s Love Got to Do with It," "Private Dancer"). But the foray into the '80s didn't stop there. In one of the best skits of the night, the stage was transformed into a mini Thunderdome, complete with dudes in S&M gear dancing with whips and wearing furs, and Tina in a flowing silver gown and giant blonde wig, belting out "We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)" as clips from the Mad Max movie were projected behind her.
(Original "We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)" video)
There were other Vegas moments during the show as well--her Bond song "GoldenEye" became grounds for a 007 dance number with Tina emerging from the center of a James Bond opening credits-style circle. And during one of her many costume changes, her "Ninja" (male) backing dancers jumped on stage, pretending to be fans being chased by security guards and ending up doing backflips and other gymnastic stunts. And her "Flowers" (female backing dancers) wavered between amusing and distracting as they fluttered around in nude body suits, men's shirts and ties, and flashy black rock 'n' roll dresses. The star attraction herself rose up and down a giant platform that jutted up from the stage, and danced out on a catwalk that moved up and over the crowd -- she more than kept up with the younger chorus line on the stage.
Turner has been entwined with so much of pop culture, and her performance really hit that home. From the bit of "Won't Get Fooled Again" worked into the set to her covers of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together," the Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash," Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Proud Mary," and Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love," she made other people's hits her own with that loud, clear, gospel-fused rock 'n' soul voice.
I liked all the older material, but I could've done without the elements of the show that made it feel dated -- like the lingering smooth jazz sax solos and the wanky guitar solos. But this show was directed and produced by Tina Turner (as you were reminded in the closing "credits" rolling from the screen") and as the star she possesses a dazzling energy. So even when she's singing "Help me if you can I'm feeling down" (another cover, of course, this time the Beatles' "Help!" ) she sings like she has the reserves of ten women inside her. Turner doesn't need all the glitz and glam with those kinds of pipes -- but what the hell, the scripted moves and exploding sets just made things a more entertaining in the end.