"I'm the girl in the band," shouted Tina Turner Saturday night after introducing her group at Merriweather Post Pavilion.
She arrived on stage in typical fashion, in full strut, shaking from heels to miniskirt to haystack hair, her voice raspy, soulful and piercing. With the crowd already on its feet, she made her way down the three-tier stage, blowing kisses to the front row while singing "What You Get Is What You See." Not a great song, or even a very good one, it nevertheless got the show off to a terrific start.
Turner has been touring since March, but if she's grown tired of the grind, there's no sign of it. She was tireless. Whether darting to the highest reaches of the stage to dance with percussionist Steve Scales (best known for his work with Talking Heads) or punctuating "Private Dancer" with a bit of steamy choreography, she was constantly in motion, more often than not in high gear. She was also smiling a lot, beaming really.
Her voice, too, was in fine form, strong enough to compensate for a few mediocre songs and for some arrangements that sounded rather pat coming from her eight-piece band. She's appeared in the area with better groups, but this one -- a mixture of British and American musicians -- played with polish and power, lacking only a sense of looseness and spontaneity.
Mostly, Turner drew songs from her last two albums -- "Private Dancer" and "Break Every Rule." (The notable oldies were torrid versions of "Proud Mary" and "Nutbush City Limits.") Elaborately staged and lighted (Pepsi is sponsoring the tour), the show revealed just how thoroughly her recent albums have revamped and rejuvenated her performances. While the ballad "Private Dancer" and "What's Love Got to Do With It" were hard to beat and drew some of the loudest applause, Turner was no less impressive when singing "Typical Male," "Let's Stay Together" and several other songs.
By contrast, Wang Chung opened with a lifeless set. For a dance band, the group had great difficulty getting much reaction from the crowd until the end. But then, maybe everyone was just saving energy for Turner's arrival.