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Tina Turner in concert.

October 19, 2008


That still unmistakable voice...

CONCERT REVIEW |

San Jose - Sunday, Oct. 19

After some eight years away, the woman born Anna Mae Bullock in Nutbush, Tenn., returned to San Jose on Sunday for the first of two nights at HP Pavilion with a show that features all the spectacle you could want a tight seven-piece band, four sexy dancers, two female singers, gymnastic ninjas, countless costume changes, dazzling lights, red-hot pyro and a stage with more mechanical tricks than a Rube Goldberg invention.

But the center of attention, of course, is Ms. Turner herself, with that hair, those legs, that still unmistakable voice.

Now 68, Turner has made few concessions to age on this, her first tour since her "farewell" trek of 2000. It's a little shorter two 50-minute sets and two encores and there are several extended set pieces for the dancers that let her catch her breath. But while she's on the stage, she still keeps up with hoofers a third of her age in spurts anyway and still gives it everything she's got when she's singing.

You can really feel the strain these days when she kicks it into her upper register, but that's OK. Tina was never about doing things nice and easy. And unlike all the hard-dancing divas that followed in her wake, Tina's singing is 100 percent real.

Oddly, she front-loaded all her biggest solo hits in the first set, with "Better Be Good to Me" coming across the best. She also reached all the way back to 1966 for the overwrought but still thrilling "River Deep-Mountain High." "What's Love Got to Do With It" turned into a mass singalong as Tina spurred the women and men of the audience to belt out the title phrase.

After a long intermission and a video of career highlights, the curtain reopened with Turner on a stool, surrounded by her guitarists strumming acoustics. Freed from worrying about dance moves and high heels, Turner did her best singing of the night, crooning an effective slow version of the Beatles' "Help" and delivering soulful takes on "Let's Stay Together" and "I Can't Stand the Rain." But by the time she cranked out Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love," a longtime live staple for Turner, the thinness of her post-Ike catalog was becoming all too clear.

She gave the set a strong ending, though, with her definitive late-career single, "The Best," and the Turners' classic "nice and rough" take on "Proud Mary."

For the encore, a previously unseen crane emerged from the stage and sent Turner soaring over the audience for a joyous "Nutbush City Limits." A low-key finale, "Be Tender With Me, Baby," sent the crowd on its way.

 
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