November 26, 2008
Prudential Center in Newark
During the encore of Tina Turner's Wednesday night concert at the Prudential Center in Newark, a huge crane arm rose from the stage and hovered over the crowd. Turner sang much of "Nutbush City Limits" from a ministage at the end of it, then left the platform and danced on the arm's narrow, flat top.
No net, no railing, and she was wearing high heels. Not a bad way to celebrate your 69th birthday.
Yes, rock's queen of over-the-top showmanship reached that milestone on Wednesday. And yes, she sang with the kind of raw power and danced with the kind of hyperkinetic energy that few 69-year-olds can match.
Turner, who also performed at the Prudential Center on Thanksgiving and will be at Madison Square Garden on Monday, is on her first tour since 2000. (She announced, at that time, that she would never tour again.)
She released a greatest hits album in September, but has not put out a studio album since 1999, so her current tour is dominated by familiar material. Or, as she put it Wednesday, the tour is a "recap" of her past -- with fireworks, elaborate sets, video montages, seven dancers, and many costume changes.
She reached back to her Ike & Tina Turner days for "Proud Mary" and "River Deep -- Mountain High," and sang the songs that established her as a major solo artist in the mid-'80s ("What's Love Got To Do With It," "Better Be Good To Me," "Private Dancer").
Tina Turner in concert at the Prudential Center. Her tour arrives at Madison Square Garden on Monday.She donned her costume from the "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" movie for her hit from that soundtrack ("We Don't Need Another Hero"), and her dancers fired fake guns at each other during "GoldenEye" (her theme for the James Bond movie of that name). She sang in front of pinball images for "Acid Queen" and in front of old footage of The Rolling Stones for a medley of the band's "Jumping Jack Flash" and "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll." Turner sometimes tried too hard to please.
The "Thunderdome" segment, featuring dancers thrashing around in a cage and one of the evening's most ambitious fireworks displays, put undue emphasis on "We Don't Need Another Hero," which really isn't one of her best songs. An audience-participation segment during "What's Love Got to Do With It" slowed down the evening's momentum.
She was at her best during the no-nonsense, unplugged segment that kicked off the show's second set, drawing on her blues and gospel roots for a slowed-down, mesmerizing "Help!," followed by "Let's Stay Together," "Undercover Agent For the Blues" and "I Can't Stand the Rain."
She dedicated this portion of the show to Beyonce and Jay-Z, who watched from a pair of seats near the stage, and also visited her during intermission. Turner acknowledged them after the break, and said their presence was like a birthday gift.
(Turner's performance with Beyonce on the Grammys show this February encouraged her to return to the road, she has said.) It was a smooth-running show, with one notable exception.
After "Nutbush City Limits," Turner seemed to be getting ready to sing another song. But her microphone wouldn't work. After a minute or two of confusion, she still didn't have a working microphone, so she exited, and didn't return. It's not like this ruined the evening. But it was unfortunate for a solid comeback show like this to end with a glitch that made the ultimate pro seem, momentarily, like an amateur.
Jay Lustig may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or