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Pop Music Review

The Staying Power of Tina

Even if the singer's physical prowess might not be the same as decades ago, her voice remains a thing of wonder.

May 06, 2000|RANDY LEWIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

OK, so contrary to popular belief, time hasn't stood still for Tina Turner. But it sure seems to be trailing her like a frightened lap dog.

The soul-rocking dynamo has announced her retirement from large-venue touring after her current one because, at 61, she thinks it's time to scale things down. But if you think that means from now on she'll be taking things nice and easy, remember that Tina never, ever . . . well, you know the name of that tune.

She certainly didn't take the mellow approach Thursday in the first of two nights at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim.

But there were signs that time is inching forward nonetheless, that those seemingly immortal legs are starting to kick a bit less high, a bit less hard, and shimmy with a bit less electricity.

Such decremental changes in Turner's still-amazing physical prowess were noticeable only next to five lithe singer-dancers (each maybe half or even a third her age) on stage with her and her seven-man band for most of a dazzling two-hour performance.

Her voice is another matter entirely. Still a thing of wonder, it purrs, growls, scowls, scolds, shouts and rejoices with every ounce of authority it possessed three and four decades ago.

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So if it's now at least conceivable that the faithful won't be able to worship those golden calves forever, it's equally imaginable that the only thing standing in the way of Tina Turner singing on into eternity is a shortage of songs worthy of the heart and soul she pours into everything she tackles.

She's doing just three songs off her new "Twenty Four Seven" album on the tour, and it's been suggested that's because she wants to sign off from the arena and stadium shows with her hits.

But the likely reason that her mid-'80s comeback hits still dominate her shows is that she's found few since that represent new peaks, rather than old ones revisited.

Despite the sense in her recent albums that she's been there, done that, in concert her two major recurring themes--the devastation of lost love and resilience in the face of same--combine from song to song into a forceful message of empowerment. Maybe she's eyeing a second career as the poster woman for female self-esteem.

But, artistically, it means she's leaving fans on a note of recapitulation, albeit glorious recapitulation, instead of further rejuvenation as she heads into whatever she has in mind for the next phase of a remarkable 40-year career.

Actually, the end of mega-touring holds out the tantalizing prospect of one day seeing Turner in more intimate settings, where everything doesn't have to be played to the max.

"Tina--Up Close and Personal"? There's an idea.

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Lionel Richie once gave Turner a break as his opening act before her "Private Dancer" comeback in 1984, and now she's returning the favor to a singer who spent most of the '90s out of the public eye.

His '70s and '80s chart-toppers--from gracefully muscular Commodores funk to his often-drippy solo ballads--dominated his hourlong set.

Richie did play one new song: the infectiously tropical-flavored "Cinderella," from his forthcoming "Renaissance" album. His gift for pop hooks seems intact, and because on record it's a collaboration with the Backstreet Boys, it's a safe bet to land him back in the pop limelight when the single is released this summer.

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