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Tina Turner live in Kansas City | October 1st 2008

Photos by Chris Oberholtz/The Star Review: Tina Turner

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The event: Wednesday's sold-out opening of the 68-year-old rock diva's first road show since 2000, when her Twenty Four Seven Tour made her the year's top-grossing concert act. The new 36-date North American tour is an extravagant production with choreography by Toni Basil and costumes by Bob Mackie and Giorgio Armani.

Location: The Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Attendance: 18,000

This is a nice coincidence: In a year when gender and women's stature in politics has become a part of the national conversation, Tina Turner returns to the world of live music.

Wednesday night, she launched her "Tina Turner Live" tour at Sprint Center, her first series of live shows in more than eight years. Turner will turn 69 in November, and her age usually comes up right away when she is mentioned in conversation. But after watching her whip a sold-out arena into a frenzy, that number loses much of its context. B.B. King turned 83 last month. Mick Jagger turned 65 in July. Paul McCartney turned 66 in June. What's age got to do with it?

This show was mind-boggling in many ways. For one, it was the first show on the tour. Those shows usually suffer a few obvious bumps, glitches and mishaps. Not this one. Second, Turner is in her 50th year of live performance, yet she still has the endurance, durability and enthusiasm of performers much younger than she is. She also knows how to choreograph a spectacle.

I won't completely spoil the encore for anyone going to the Oct. 8 show, but there was a moment where she was atop a somewhat narrow strip of runway at least eight feet above the crowd in the first 20 rows. Dancing. In high heels. No kidding.

Earlier in the show, when she and her dancers and background singers were ripping through "Jumping Jack Flash," the large screen behind her showed footage of Turner singing the same song with Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones about 30 years ago. The juxtaposition was enlightening: Someone in that picture isn't what he used to be. Turner, on the other hand, has evolved quite nicely.

The show lasted about 150 minutes, including a 30-minute intermission. She played about everything any fan - casual or devout - would want to hear. She opened with "Steamy Windows," then "Typical Male" and "River Deep." By night's end she'd performed "Better Be Good To Me," "Private Dancer," "What's Love Got to Do With It" and "We Don't Need Another Hero."

She brought with her a five-piece band, two background singers and four young female dancers who looked like they jumped out of a Victoria Secrets catalog. No big deal. Several times, Turner jumped in line and danced along with them. Her voice, too, sounded strong. And it got ample support, from guys in her band and her backup singers, including Lisa Fischer, who took over "It's Only Rock and Roll" so the headliner to execute another wardrobe change.

Turner also hired the Ninjas, a muscular all-male acrobatic/dance troupe (she knows her audience well) that included Jesse "Justice" Smith, one of the biggest human beings I've ever seen. He plays a role in the Mad Max/"Another Hero" number, and he looks like he could put Shaquille O'Neal on a Ritz cracker and eat him.

Her stage was loaded with features: video screens, stairs, runways, hydraulic lifts, scaffolding. A couple of times flashpots exploded - as if she needed them. This was an extravaganza, a Vegas show on human-growth hormones.

Parts of it were a little odd, though. During "Better Be Good To Me," the Ninjas choreographed a beat-down on a security guard (not a good image for what's happened around here recently). Later, during "Goldeneye," the dancers wielded handguns during a dance number.

To start the second set, Turner sat with some of her musicians at the front of the stage, unplugged style, and rendered a slow-burning, bluesy version of the Beatles' "Help." Very nice. Two songs later, she ripped through a smoldering cover of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together," then a funky, soulful cover of Ann Peebles' "Can't Stand the Rain." She knows how to change pace, too.

She reprised more of her famous covers, including Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love," and more of her own hits, like "The Best." She ended on a roll. Before "Proud Mary," which ended the first set, she introduced everyone on stage and tipped her hat to her sound engineer and road manager and a few others. And after the last song, the video screens rolled credits, too, like at the end of a movie. Her encore: "Nutbush City Limits" and "Be Tender With Me, Baby."

I saw Turner out at Sandstone about 10 years ago, and I swear she was more energetic this time than she was back then. I understand why so many fans -- especially women her age or near it -- are infatuated with her and all that she represents: strength, survival, longevity, success -- someone who has earned on her own every scrap of legend and praise that comes her way. None like her will come this way again very soon.

Timothy Finn, The Star

Set list:

01. Steamy Windows
02. Typical Male
03. River Deep, Mountain High
04. What You Get Is What You See
05. Better Be Good To Me
06. Ninjas
07. Acid Queen
08. What's Love Got To Do With It?
09. Private Dancer
10. Ninjas
11. We Don't Need Another Hero

- Intermission -

12. Help
13. Undercover Agent For The Blues
14. Let's Stay Together
15. I Can't Stand The Rain
16. Medley: Jumping Jack Flash/It's Only Rock 'N' Roll
17. Ninjas (blonde girl dances)
18. Goldeneye
19. Addicted To Love
20. The Best
21. Band introductions
22. Proud Mary
23. Nutbush City Limits
24. Be Tender with me Baby


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