What's age got to do with it? Tina Turner still terrific

Fri Dec 5, 2008 3:20am EST
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By Jonathan Cohen

NEW YORK (Billboard) - There's always been something larger than life about Tina Turner, but sometimes these realizations don't actually hit home until one sees the R&B dynamo suspended 30 feet above a crowd of 15,000 people. On a hydraulic lift. While wearing five-inch heels.

And by the way, Turner is now 69 years old. And she reportedly was suffering from a terrible cold just before her December 1 show at New York's Madison Square Garden, but never considered canceling. The point: this woman defies so much conventional wisdom that being in her presence for two-plus hours is a bit of a head trip.

It was also about as much entertainment value as could reasonably be expected from an arena concert: multiple costume changes, several homoerotic "huh?"-type interludes (the most bizarre involved a mock stage intruder who was then "beaten" by a fake security guard), trap doors in the stage, scantily clad dancers, celebrities dancing right in front of you (hi there, Anne Hathaway) and then appearing on the Jumbotron (happy anniversary, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes).

The show had just the right mix of mega-hits and lesser-known gems, including the ultra-funky "I Can't Stand the Rain," a raved-up "The Acid Queen" and her sultry theme for the James Bond movie "Goldeneye." "We Don't Need Another Hero" came complete with a "Thunderdome" stage set and, amazingly, an enormous extra in a metallic Speedo, armor, pith helmet and fur to watch over it all knowingly.

The classics sounded incredible, with Turner in terrific voice on "River Deep, Mountain High," the rapidly key-changing "What's Love Got To Do With It?" and "Private Dancer." A sequence of covers after intermission allowed her to show off her interpretive flair, best heard on a stripped-down version of the Beatles' "Help."

"Proud Mary" was a hand-clapping, butt-shaking delight, followed by a frantic "Nutbush City Limits," with Turner on the aforementioned hydraulic lift. By then it was beyond clear that she'll probably outlast us all, still glittering like the sequins sewn into her dresses.