Maybe it was just one of those nights when everything was right. Or maybe it was the stiff competition, what with Bruce Springsteen playing across the Beltway. Or maybe now, after all these years, Tina Turner is finally on top, and she intends to stay there.
Whatever the reason, Turner put on an exhilarating concert at the Capital Centre last night, compressing into an hour and a half enough spirit, soul, sensuality and stamina to power a half dozen rock shows.
Turner, if anyone needs reminding, has never been hotter than she is right now, both as a recording artist and as a performer. A quarter century in the making, her triumph has been hard won and now she seems to enjoy nothing more than celebrating her victory through the kind of unbridled rock and soul show she put on last night.
Early in the evening, during the opening set, former Eagle Glenn Frey sang "The Heat Is On," but the temperature remained constant until Turner showed up. Frey did his best, though, to prime the crowd for her arrival by concentrating almost exclusively on rockers. The combination of several tunes from his most recent album and R&B oldies like "Sea Cruise" made for a solid if unexceptional warmup. A feisty version of "Heartache Tonight" was the sole reminder of the nine years Frey spent with the Eagles.
Turner's performance was preceded by a video tease that showed her preparing for the concert -- applying makeup, lacing up her bodice, stepping into tight white slacks. She then strutted on stage to join a top-notch '60s band, tossing her outrageous golden mane from side to side and occasionally twisting her facial expressions into Jaggeresque pouts and snarls. It wasn't long ago that Turner shared the stage with a couple of female dancers. Now she has it all to herself, and she uses every inch of it.
The performance was as compact as the singer herself. No wasted words. No wasted songs. Not surprisingly, Turner focused primarily on songs from the multimillion-selling album "Private Dancer." The depth of emotion she conveyed while singing the title tune and other ballads such as "Let's Stay Together" was matched only by the primal energy she displayed on some of the uptempo numbers.
The hits from "Private Dancer" turned out to be precisely what Turner needed to rejuvenate her concerts. Now she no longer has to lean so heavily on some of her old favorites, concert staples like "River Deep, Mountain High" or "Proud Mary." Of course, she still managed to bring each of those tunes to a thrilling crescendo (especially her "nice and rough" version of the latter). But the emotional highs were spread throughout the evening. Perhaps because the songs from "Private Dancer" are very much her own hits, Turner was careful to deliver them with riveting power and conviction. She wasn't kidding when she said of her performance, "The longer I do it, the better it gets."
"What's Love Got to Do With It," the recent hit that sparked Turner's comeback, was one of the many highlights. It not only proved to be a marvelous vehicle for Turner's raw and impassioned voice; its irresistible melody lured virtually everyone in the near-capacity crowd to join her on the chorus.
The show was all the more remarkable when you consider that Turner has been touring all year. By evening's end, you'd think she'd be showing at least a few signs of fatigue. Instead, she looked as if she could still go a few rounds with Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
The show ended on a delightful note. After a series of invigorating encores, including the definitive version of ZZ Top's "Legs," Turner returned to the stage to thank the audience for its support. She also said she wanted to sing a song by someone "who's playing nearby." Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" was sheer rock 'n' roll exuberance.