Montreal December 8, 2008
Canada - Entertainment | Buns of steel. It was the first image to appear on the big screen Monday night when the lights came down at the Bell Centre. And while those buns didn't belong to the main attraction, the one and only Tina Turner, but to one of her dancers, they did give one cause to pause, and wonder.
Such is the timeless appeal and determined image of eternal youth of the 69-year-old singer, who performed to an adoring crowd of 14,800 fans in the first of two shows at the venue. She returns Wednesday, then does two nights in Toronto, the last of 36 North American dates before picking up for 43 more in Europe in the new year.
It is Turner's first tour in eight years. That very fact, combined with her advanced age, made this something special. But the leading lady had more in store. She came out with every ounce of spunk, sass and class we have come to expect from her.
She stacked the odds in her favour, beginning with her entrance. Standing provocatively atop a platform raised 30 feet above the stage, legs spread (and prominently displayed), high heels, trademark mane and look of defiance, she launched into Steamy Windows as the platform descended.
It was equal parts theatre and music performance, and Turner has always had a bit of both in her act. Her hearty wail carried a lifetime of song, while her very presence – stage presence, charisma, effusive energy – is an irresistible weapon of mass seduction. People love her, are in awe of her. She knows it; she works it.
Typical Male brought us back to her 80s pop days. She strutted about with total self-possession while four female dancers spun around her, and her 10-piece band (including two backup singers) pumped out the syncopated groove.
Turner soaked up the applause at song's end, walking from side to side, waving as she flashed a megawatt smile, like a goodwill ambassador/fairy godmother of rock'n'soul.
"Is everybody alright?" she called out. "I think it's going to be a good one tonight. This show is a recap of most of my work I've done in the past. I hope you enjoy it."
She dipped back to a classic for River Deep, Mountain High, kept it going with What You Get Is What You See, a rousing Better Be Good to Me and unfocused Acid Queen before delivering the first smash of the night: What's Love Got to Do With It?
If she didn't always quite hit the high notes, she came close – and the audience was there to back her up. She padded her support by stopping the song midway to engage the crowd, getting first the ladies and then the men to sing the chorus, "with attitude."
It was Tina Turner 101.
Private Dancer was tame in comparison, and the Mad Max theme We Don't Need Another Hero was wildly over-the-top (more hydraulics, fireworks, explosions).
She returned from a half-hour intermission to dig into an some of her favourite covers including the Beatles' Help!, Al Green's Let's Stay Together and the Rolling Stones' double-up Jumpin' Jack Flash/It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It), before closing with the James Bond song GoldenEye (in full drama mode, aided by the snazzy visuals of Montrealer Olivier Goulet),The Best and a rousing Proud Mary.
But whether she was singing her own songs or other people's, classic soulnumbers or chintzy 80s ballads – it didn't matter. And while the special effects were nice, she didn't need them. The power was in the performance, history and amazing endurance of a true musical icon, still in fighting form.