The start of Tina Turner's first road trip in eight years was marked by a petty but still amusing royal soul smackdown as Ike's ex and Aretha Franklin once again squabbled over that "Queen" title Beyoncé bestowed on her earlier this year at the Grammys. For her part, Turner seemed willing to stop the diva madness and accept the title of "Queen of Rock" to end any cat fight with the territorial "Queen of Soul." Yet by any name, Turner's alternately slick and soulful two-and-a-half hour set at Los Angeles' Staples Center last night was proof positive that the former Ann Marie Bullock still deserves our R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
"I bring you a show of my past," Turner declared to a sold-out crowd early on, and she clearly wasn't kidding — not even performing either of the two new tracks from her new Tina! compilation released to coincide with the tour. And a show it was, featuring a seven-piece band, two background singers, four dancers and some acrobatic performers identified as Ninjas — once a member of a Revue, always a member of a Revue.
The first half of Turner's show featured some excellent performances, especially the still solid Wall of Sound that is "River Deep, Mountain High," an appropriately trippy "Acid Queen" and an altogether inspired rendition of "Private Dancer," though the set list included perhaps one too many of Turner's "nice and easy" post-Private Dancer hits like "Typical Male" and "What You Get Is What You See." The set ended with a major production of "We Don't Need Another Hero" that sought to bring Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome alive onstage at the Staples Center. The whole thing could have seemed silly, if Turner hadn't sung the hell out of the song.
Following a half-hour intermission, Turner's Act Two was nearly flawless — beginning with an unplugged set that gave her a chance to rest those famous legs and focus on that wonderfully earthy voice. Like Turner's revelatory performance of Joni Mitchell's "Edith and the Kingpin" on Herbie Hancock's River album, this segment was a welcome reminder of the inspired singer behind all her international celebrity. A cover of "Help" and a powerful rendition of the Tony Joe White-penned "Undercover Agent for the Blues" led into Turner's even more vivid revivals of two back-to-back Hi hits she's reclaimed, "Let's Stay Together" and "I Can't Stand the Rain."
The rest of the show was an energetic rush including an altogether inspired Stones medley of "Jumpin Jack Flash" and "It's Only Rock and Roll" with clips of Tina and Mick, a closing "Proud Mary" and a first encore of "Nutbush City Limits" that found Turner on a extended ramp reaching out way over the crowd. The crane was cool enough, but by then the Queen of something had already touched her royal subjects the old fashioned way — nice and rough.
"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"/"It's Only Rock and Roll"
"Addicted to Love"
"Nutbush City Limits"
"Be Tender With Me, Baby"