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Tina Gets Lift From Hydraulics

Happy Fans in N.Y. Show - December 2, 2008

Review by Michael Killeen

Tina Turner, who just turned 69, stood on a pedestal 30 feet in the air to greet her cheering legions at the opening of last night’s sold-out show in New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Hydraulics eased her down as she sang “Steamy Windows.” An affirmative roar greeted her question: “Is everybody all right?”

The eight-time Grammy Award winner has hit the road again after announcing her retirement in 2000 following a tour that grossed $110 million. Turner’s 36 North American performances are almost wrapped up; 43 dates in Europe follow.

Last night she set the bar high and cleared it with “River Deep, Mountain High,” the classic produced by Phil Spector. Her back-up singers morphed into stage props when the crowd provided the chorus, as they did repeatedly throughout the 2 1/2-hour show.

The lower part of the two-level stage offered a club-like setting beneath the upper stage’s overhang for the tight seven- piece band and two back-up singers. Four dancers pumped and shook, with Turner moving away from the microphone at times to join them.

During the first half, Turner’s voice worked better in songs with shorter bursts of lyrics, such as “Better Be Good to Me.” At one point she just tossed her mane of hair toward the front rows and a chunk of the audience yelped as if from welcome whiplash. She stripped off a long red gown to a crimson micro, body and legs in remarkably fine shape, the crowd singing along to “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” as she worked them with a shrug, a pout, a bit of funk in the trunk.

She returned on an acoustic note, sitting stage center for the Beatles’ “Help.” The pared-down mode stayed strong with a slow and truly fine version of her sultry comeback hit, Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” that caught the song’s pent-up emotion. She ripped the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” apart, and then the crowd was on its feet cheering as she sang “Simply the Best.”

Tennessee Town

“Proud Mary” closed the set, the audience expecting and getting encores. Turner came back onstage in tight black Capri pants, white blouse and of course high, high heels, and dug into “Nutbush City Limits,” her driving paean to the hardscrabble Tennessee town she came from.

After that, she jumped into what looked like the prow of a ship. A 50-foot length of stage lifted up and became a crane arm that swept her out over the audience as she exhorted them to sing along with her, giving a special shout out to Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, whom she spied in front.

She brought the audience back down and sent them home with a ballad, “Be Tender With Me Baby.”

(The opinions expressed are his own.)

Something Beautiful Remains
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