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Pop music review: Turner delivers a fresh blast of her seasoned power in the first of five sold-out shows at the Greek Theatre.


There are a couple of remarkable moments in the stylish new Tina Turner concert--one in which she dares to go head-to-head and legs-to-legs with her striking image of three decades ago, and another when she simply sits down on the job.

Together on Monday at the Greek Theatre, they reminded us just how special this wonderfully involving performer remains.

The first highlight occurred early in the nearly two-hour set when Turner went into a version of "River Deep--Mountain High," the landmark record she made in 1966 with legendary producer Phil Spector.

"This next song is an old one . . . a real old one," joked Turner, wearing a sparkling silver mini-dress with black trim as she stood on an equally flashy, high-tech stage.

As she began the tale of romantic innocence, Turner's face was spotlighted on three large video screens--but the image was in black and white rather than the color employed the rest of the evening.

The idea was to give a vintage feel, as if watching today's Turner back in the '60s. To underscore the point, the shots alternated with '60s footage of her singing the same song.

It was a brilliant move because the contrast demonstrated that Turner's powers have increased, not diminished, over the years.

She may not sing and dance with the raw abandon of her youth, but Turner, nearing 60, brings a maturity and seasoning to the stage that gives her presentation more dimension. She teases now, rather than simply overpowering with her moves, and her singing has more control and character. Most important, her passion remains high.

This was gratifying because there were times during Turner's last U.S. tour in 1993 when she seemed on automatic pilot.

On Monday, Turner's desire was especially apparent in the evening's other most revealing moment--when she gave those million-dollar legs a rest by sitting on a stool for a semi-acoustic segment.

There aren't many singers who would have the nerve to tackle a song identified with Al Green, arguably the greatest living soul singer. But Turner sang "Let's Stay Together" with a winning intensity that not only topped her recording of the tune, but also rivaled Green's. She followed with an even more scorching treatment of "I Can't Stand the Rain," another piece of exquisite Memphis soul.

It was such an effective sequence that Turner should think of expanding it, perhaps injecting an element of surprise by turning to songs that she hasn't recorded.

Backed by a flexible seven-piece band and three tireless dancers, Turner offered a good balance of signature songs, including "Proud Mary" and "Private Dancer," with tunes from her recent "Wildest Dreams" album.

There were occasional distractions--especially the over-the-top antics of saxophonist-percussionist Timmy Cappello and the way Turner turned one of her most affecting songs, "What's Love Got to Do With It," into a flimsy audience participation number.

Generally, however, Turner's new show is fast-paced and liberating. In a pop world where so many veteran artists end up offering fans only a shadow of what they once prized, Turner--like "Proud Mary" herself--keeps on rollin'.

Opening act Cyndi Lauper was handicapped by the ambitious but relatively inaccessible material from her new "Sisters of Avalon" album.

* Tina Turner performs Thursday, Friday and Sunday at the Greek Theatre, 2700 N. Vermont Ave., 7:30 p.m. Sold out. (213) 480-3232. Saturday at the Pond of Anaheim, 2695 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim, 8 p.m. $50 and $35. (714) 704-2400.

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