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Tina Turner in concert.

San Jose - October 20, 2008


Some people create electricity and others use it.

As if there was any doubt, the lights blazing above the stage reminded everyone who they were there to see: T-I-N-A.

Maybe it was necessary. Eight years ago, Tina Turner officially announced her retirement. At some point, though, she must have realized what a crime it is to keep those legs from doing what they were put on this earth to do. On Sunday at HP Pavilion in San Jose, they seemed to move independently of the 68-year-old singer's miniskirted body - kicking, strutting, shimmying, gliding up and down steep ramps on precarious stilettos and generally behaving as if they were attached to Beyoncé. The legs were really happy to be back.

Turner eventually came around, too. She doesn't have a new album to promote, and despite an appearance at the Grammys earlier this year, she's been out of sight for a really long time. But the first of her two Bay Area comeback concerts easily sold out, even with floor seats starting at $150. Turner rewarded the faithful with a tireless two-and-a-half-hour spectacle that saw her moving at full force through several costume changes and songs that stretched back five decades. Even "Goldeneye," possibly the worst James Bond theme song ever, inspired wild shrieks from the largely older audience.

"During the time I was away, I forgot how wonderful those sounds could be," Turner said.

The concert itself, split in two by a really long intermission, was basically a variation on Turner's 1987 "Break Every Rule" tour (with a near identical set list): an unabashed Las Vegas-style revue stuffed with enormous video projections, lithe dancers, pyrotechnic displays, expensive scaffolding and lots of unnecessary saxophone solos. Amy Winehouse may have made the charts safe again for robust vintage soul, but Turner remains entrenched in the shrill MTV era.

The first half of the concert was particularly overbearing, heavy on airbrushed dentist office staples including "Typical Male," "What's Love Got to Do With It" and "Private Dancer." She closed the set by donning a horrible wig and attempting to re-create the "Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome" set for "We Don't Need Another Hero."

Turner returned after the break with her senses restored. Sitting on a stool in front of her seven-piece band and two backup singers, she opened with hushed cocktail-lounge renditions of the Beatles' "Help!," Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" and Ann Peebles' "I Can't Stand the Rain." With her electrifying voice finally granted some breathing room, she powered through a soulful Rolling Stones medley of "Jumpin' Jack Flash"/"It's Only Rock and Roll" and her career-making cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Proud Mary."

And, just as she did last time she played in San Jose, Turner jumped on an enormous cherry picker to hover over the crowd for a floor-shaking version of "Nutbush City Limits." It may have been a terribly contrived moment, but the opportunity to see those legs up close one more time made her return totally worth it.

E-mail Aidin Vaziri at avaziri@sfchronicle.com.

 
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