Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tina Is...Simply The Best!!!

By Keith Richmond January 28, 2009

Upon the eve of Tina Turner's 50th Anniversary Tour in Berlin, a German newspaper article stated that the reason behind Ms. Turner's return to the stage at the age of 70 was a result of a conservation she had with one of her best friends Sophia Loren. Ms. Loren suggested to Tina that if she still enjoys it, then go ahead and do it. Whether this is true, thank you Sophia Loren and thank you Tina! After an 8 year stage break, a performing legend continues to shine! Yes, the night of January 27, 2009 I (an African-American living in Berlin) and my partner (a relocated German from New York) were lucky enough to be a part of Tina's 20,000 person sold-out audience (40 including both nights).
We floated with excitement into the stadium and found our way to our seats on the main floor, in the middle section, 18 rows from the a Diva! All the "whys" of the bestowed Diva title were answered - the signature shakable hair, a smile so bright and welcoming you have to shout "Wherever you want to take me Girl!", legs that have walked one of the most well-known storied paths less traveled, and the swagger and moves that are now less frantic but no where near their Nut-Bush city limits! Shock - "we're watching Tina Turner!", Shock - "look where we're sitting!", Shock - "she's turning it out at the age of 70!", Super Shock - "her voice - still fantastic!" The appeal of Tina Turner is so broad that the median audience age range was 30 to 80, but there were also concert goers dipping into the low 20's. Picture it - we in our 40's (gorgeous), a guy in the row in front of us in his 20's / 30's, and it front of him was a married couple pushing 80. Now for a few of the many highlights.
Tina travels with her own complete stage setup including the signature ramp which separates from the main stage to extend into and hover over the audience. The production sets were over the top, including one for Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (yes, she was white-wigged and costumed with the cast), and a tribute to 007 Goldeneye which included background screen images, dancing Bond girls, a 007, two gigantic gold metallic ying-yang pieces that slowly rose from the stage high into the sky, closed together to form a circular golden-eye, then lit up like a Spielberg/Lucas spaceship, opened, and Tina came through the bright light wearing (I believe) a Bob Mackie black gown singing Golden Eye! [This is the part where you scream at the top of your lungs - we did!].
Everyone has their moment-in-waiting; that moment when it all comes together and NO ONE can tell you that you are not on stage in the midst of one of the most famous musical introductions "You know, I think you'd like to hear something from us niccce and eeeeasy....." A feeling came over me...I was about to loose my it reflected on the countless times I have performed this song, my favorite karaoke song...a warm feeling that slowing moves into an out-of-body experience as my hips begin to swagger from side to side in conjunction with shoulders, while one arm starts to pendulum swing from the elbow down...."and then, and then, and then, we're going to take the end of this song and do it nice and rough because that's the way we do Proud Mary". Well that's all it took for me to explode into a million pieces of happy-joy-joy!
We jumped, shouted, screamed, and "shook a tail feather" as an entire stadium erupted to their dancing feet! We had been transported and was there for the ride all the way to the blissful end of what makes a legend be simply Tina, to be Simply The Best!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cologne, Saturday, 17 January 2009
Tina Turner: Simply the best!!!
As rock'n'roll's male dinosaurs stage one comeback after another, it's down to Tina Turner to show them how it should be done

Tina Turner uses a hydraulic lift to make a dramatic entry on stage in Cologne this week.
The 20,000-seat Lanxess Arena in Cologne, where Tina Turner opens the European leg of her 50th anniversary tour, is one of those typical journeyman arenas which are now virtually the only places where fans can get to see artists of a certain stature. Designed to host sports and music events, it's far from perfect acoustically – but then, acoustics are not the main priority at shows like this, a crowd-pleasing career retrospective spanning "River Deep - Mountain High" to "Goldeneye", in which the music is but one element of a multimedia spectacle.
So you don't just get her singing "Goldeneye", you get a chap dressed in a white tuxedo doing a kick-boxing ballet with two assailants on a giant staircase, whilst a massive circular device behind them slowly opens to reveal Turner on a platform which thrusts forward, allowing her to step on to the balcony at the top of the staircase, descending while svelte ladies in gold catsuits writhe around wantonly and explosions pepper the stage.

And you don't just get her singing "We Don't Need Another Hero", you get some more martial-arts shenanigans upon a climbing-frame, around which curtains are drawn, like some Las Vegas illusionist stunt, then parted to reveal Turner in full Thunderdome costume, complete with massive blond wig.
The show, which the final credits reveal was "Conceived and Directed" by Tuner herself, is stuffed with special effects, from the frequent pyrotechnic bursts and huge flamethrowers that will surely test the mettle of our health and safety killjoys when the show reaches the UK, to the extraordinary stage which constantly sprouts pedestals, balconies, cranes and cherry-pickers, like some outsize Transformers toy. She even opens the concert perilously poised upon a tiny pedestal, 20 feet above the stage, which slowly lowers into the floor as the band kick into "Steamy Windows".
Not the kind of thing you'd let your 69-year-old granny attempt, but then Tina Turner is no average 69-year-old. Even when hoofing alongside her dancers, she never stumbles or struggles to keep up with the younger girls – whom she has obviously drilled in the classic Ikettes moves – and isn't too upstaged by them in terms of looks, either. While most of her contemporaries have become bloated or developed the complexion of a prune, she remains as fit as a Premiership footballer – this show is the best part of three hours long, and she's in constant action throughout – and fitter-looking than their WAGs. And most crucial of all, she's still blessed with the most powerful pipes in pop.
The quintessential "rock chick", Tina Turner remains unique among black women singers in her unbending devotion to rock'n'roll: in an era marked by legions of indistinguishable R&B "divas", there's something almost feral about Tina Turner's voice, nowhere better demonstrated than in the "unplugged" section which opens the show's second half with an achingly soulful, bluesy reinterpretation of "Help", where she effects a transformation almost as definitive as Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower".
Similarly proprietorial cuffs are snapped on to "Addicted to Love" and "Proud Mary", while elsewhere, she blasts through "Jumping Jack Flash" and "It's Only Rock'n'Roll" to a backdrop of period shots of her larking about with the painfully thin, painfully young Stones; taps into Tony Joe White's swamp-blues motherlode with an uptempo "Steamy Windows" and emotive "Undercover Agent for the Blues"; affirms her Memphis funk sensibilities with punchy versions of "Let's Stay Together" and "I Can't Stand the Rain"; and at the close of the first set, wields the core Turner classics "What's Love Got To Do with It", "Private Dancer" and "We Don't Need Another Hero" like Sugar Ray Leonard putting together a bruising combination of punches. By the time she reaches "Simply The Best" and the encore of "Nutbush City Limits", the crowd is up on its feet and out for the count, if you see what I mean.
Turner is only the latest of a string of 1960s and 70s stars who've recently chosen to tread the comeback boards, though few have carried it off with her panache – nor her determination to give the crowd its money's worth. The Cream reunion concert at the Royal Albert Hall had a certain intrigue, akin to witnessing hell actually freezing over, but the show itself was nothing more than three old geezers taking a stroll down musical memory lane – albeit, thankfully, three virtuosi old geezers.

Wolfgang Rattay

Monday, January 5, 2009

Still Rolling on the River—& Rocking

Written by Matt Kalkhoff

The Tina Turner concert I just saw was absolutely spectacular. What an incredible performer this woman is, even at 69. Not only did she sing every last note live (sans any hint of a backing track), but did so in pitch-perfect, studio-ready vocal quality as well. How nice to see a healthy-looking woman performing on stage who isn’t afraid to eat a good meal once in a while.
Yet she looked absolutely stunning from beginning to end. I know black don’t crack (as my friend Chris Davis always tells me). The Buddhist lifestyle literally stops the aging process(?).

Unlike another slightly younger, recently-divorced diva making her way across the country on tour right now, Tina’s costumes were all exquisite, totally flattering and just flashy enough, as they should be. She didn’t once cross the stage in anything short of a 3, maybe 4” heel. And while dancing almost non-stop during most of the show, she managed to belt out just about every one of her greatest hits in grand style.

She specifically told us at the beginning that she’d be performing all classics; I guess no new album or singles are in the works. But who cares when they’re all standards. I can’t think of a single song I missed or any that I could have done without.
She also mercifully left the instruments to the band, as any iconic stage-commanding pop diva of her caliber and performance reputation should. Instead, she concentrated on working the stage and the crowd with equal precision and enthusiasm. Tina is a rare old-school, world-class entertainer whom I’m incredibly thankful to have finally had the chance to experience live in concert.

Among several surprises during the show was the pyrotechnics that closed out “Better Be Good To Me"—just after I leaned over to my friend Kevin and half-jokingly suggested, “All this song needs now is some fierce pyrotechnics and it will be perfect.” Then there was the surreal, sultry and subtly introduced James Bond homage for “Golden Eye,” also a pleasant surprise. So was the decidedly more glamorous reprisal of her Thunderdome costume, complete with well-armored, hunky warriors, metal risers and a shockingly bleached-blonde mane she sported during “We Don’t Need Another Hero.” Seems to be a trend this season: see Madonna, Sticky & Sweet Tour, Act 4—both of which were more detracting than flattering, IMHO.

The last song of the night was “Nutbush City Limits,” which I admittedly was initially apprehensive as to how well it would work as a grand finale, especially following the legendary “Proud Mary.” We were all hoping, in vain, her signature song would feature an impromptu reunion duet with Beyonce, in light of Ms Turner’s earlier announcement that both Beyonce and Jay Z had stopped by backstage during the intermission. (Yes, there was a full-fledged intermission, which was actually kind of a cool idea, believe it or not—to wish her a happy birthday). But she pulled it off in grand climactic finale fashion that actually tied the whole show together.

The relatively boring stage (for most of the first part of the show, anyway) finally started to do neat Transformer-like things during the second act, including an amazing transformation that brilliantly mimicked the time-honored James Bond film opening credits sequence before she (unexpectedly) sang “Golden Eye.” Then there was this little basket-looking thing sitting on our side of the stage all night of which I commented to Kevin at one point, “Something big’s gonna happen with that at some point!”

Sure enough, a few minutes later during the finale, Tina stepped into the fire-engine-like railed basket, it lifted off the stage and then swung around way out into the audience, hovering maybe 15-20 feet or so above the crowd. Needless to say, it brought the mo’fo house down! And on top of that, at one point she fearlessly left the safety of the railed area and commenced to do full-on runway—in those high heels!—down what was at most a 2-foot wide “catwalk"/arm towards the stage and then back out to the basket. Not her first time at the rodeo, that’s for sure!

Another fun (albeit curious) oddity was the fact that she used a corded microphone throughout most of the show, only relying on a wireless mic a very few times when traversing the outer reaches of the stage. I’d be curious to hear the reason behind this, but even more curious to learn about/meet/seduce the super cute young fella who was stationed mid-stage on the main floor, leaned up against the stage, whose sole responsibility during the entire concert appeared to be only to keep the mic cord appropriately taut and, most importantly, out from underneath Tina’s stunning Christian Louboutin-designed spike-heeled shimmies and struts. No easy task, for sure, but one at which he looked exceptionally competent and sexy handling.
Sure, there were a few things I would have changed had she asked my opinion, but they were minor. Overall, it was a truly remarkable and fun show—even worth the drama of traveling from NY’s Penn Station to Newark during rush-hour on the busiest pre-holiday travel day of the year while alleged terrorist threats delayed NJ Transit and Amtrak trains by 45-60 minutes (or longer). Thankfully we had a back-up plan w/the Path Train.

Check out some of the videos on YouTube if you have a chance. In the meantime, I just hope I look half as good and have half her energy when I’m 39, let alone 69. Maybe I should look into Buddhism.