October 1, 2008
By C.J. JANOVY
Which visiting septuagenarian put on the better show in Kansas City yesterday? John McCain, who campaigned at the Truman Library and filmed remote TV interviews from a Crossroads production studio -- or Tina Turner, opening her tour at the Sprint Arena?
Click photo to view slide show.
Alright, unfair question. Turner isn’t yet 70 (she’ll be 69 next month).
Turner opened her first live show in several years with a Beatles song that seemed especially poignant. “Get Back” – to where you once belonged – felt like an instruction not just to herself but to an audience too heavily characterized by gold lame, sparkles, umbrella drinks, crows' feet and bad perfume. When the curtains parted, there was Turner in the spotlight, posed on a two-story pedestal that slowly descended to the main stage, while four smokin’-hot girls in gold bikini tops and boy shorts danced nastily on the upper level.
From there it was on.
More after the jump.
Turner – dressed at first in a glittery black off-the-shoulder top, skin-tight knee-length pants and black stilettos – didn’t stop for breath until after the third song, when, pausing to soak up the pounding applause, she finally said, “I’m happy to be here too. I’ve been in your city now, rehearsing for one good month and it’s been very, very nice. We hope you’ll enjoy the show.”
A month? How had she been here for an entire month without being spotted around town? She'd posed for a Kansas City Star photo a few days earlier, but from the looks of things she’d spent every other minute inside the Sprint Arena, preparing a show that included four or five costume changes facilitated by odd set pieces involving acrobats, fireworks that appeared to set the blue curtains afire, video montages dating back to her baby pictures, showers of sparklers, something like a musical trailer for the James Bond film GoldenEye and a recreation of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, complete with Turner in a blonde queen wig. Backed by the sturdy seven-piece band she said were her “original musicians” who had been waiting for her return, two powerful backup singers and those sharply choreographed dancers, this was such a production that credits rolled on the video screens at the end of the night.
Turner’s speaking voice was the only thing that seemed touched by age – it sounded deeper and craggier when she gave her humble “We hope you’ll enjoy the show” speech – but her singing voice soared like it was 1985 (especially in climactic wails at the end of “Let’s Stay Together”) and way out-Jaggered Mick in “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”
The voice is enough, but with Tina Turner it’s never simply about the voice. Her estimable physique seemed unaffected by age or gravity. She’s the only woman in the world who, at 69, could really pull off singing “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” in Valentine’s Day lingerie.
Who could begrudge her a half-hour intermission? Turner and band ditched the dancers, sitting on tall stools for the second set’s first few songs. It opened with another Beatles song loaded with extra meaning. “Help” was slow and contemplative around a plaintive sax solo, and gradually built to near operatic levels. It was clear who Turner needed help from, and these fans didn’t let her down. By the time the set was headed to its climax, thousands of people were on their feet singing along and pumping fists to “The Best” (in the upper levels, drunk old ladies danced with beer bottles aloft, kicking their boots up above their seats). All of which fueled Turner’s trademark stiffly awesome manic dancing. After a break for band introductions came the moment everyone knew was coming, the song that needed no introduction, the admonition that the song is never done nice and easy, because we all like it nice and rough. After several teasing nice-and-easy near starts, the arena burst into “Proud Mary” and Turner and her dancers delivered all of the moves – the paddle-wheel arms, the steps, the dips, the various swim strokes, the thrusts of the glorious mane, all of it atop those stilettos.
That could have been enough, but she came back for a two-song encore. “Nutbush City Limits” was a call and response, with Turner demanding the audience sing “one more time” over and over as she walked to the right of the stage, leaned against a rail – and slowly began rising. While part of the floor rose and lifted her far out above the crowd, then passed over it a few times, Turner kept singing “Nutbush…,” holding out her microphone, leaning over the crowd, demanding “One more time!” Riding the Sprint Center’s mechanical arm above the crowd, she was just… amazing.
River Deep, Mountain High
What You Get is What You See
Better Be Good to Me
What’s Love Got to Do With It
We Don’t Need Another Hero
Undercover Agent for the Blues
Let’s Stay Together
I Can’t Stand the Rain
Jumpin’ Jack Flash/Only Rock and Roll
Addicted to Love
Nutbush City Limits
Be Tender with Me Baby