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.