For most of the '90s Tina Turner chased past glories, but despite a well-received biopic and a handful of glossy albums, the comeback didn't really happen. It was certainly not even close to the megastorm of fame that Private Dancer blew in during the mid-'80s. And the new decade doesn't look so great, either. A new album, Twenty Four Seven, is the same old Tina formula, tweaked slightly for the new millennium. And her two-hour show at Gund Arena, a rolling caravan of greatest hits (which included such Ike-era standards as "Proud Mary" and "Nutbush City Limits"), revealed little substance beneath its sleek exterior. Still, it's hard to argue with the old gal's performance power. She shimmied and shaked, moved and grooved, and generally acted like a woman half of her 60 years.
And she modeled several different outfits, which resulted in some major lapses during the concert; her competent but staid band and backup crew were hardly adequate replacements during her absence. Turner claims this is her last big tour, so the gusto with which she delivered most of her set was probably genuine. Too bad it all seemed so hollow. As a career retrospective, Turner's show piled on the biggest and best: "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)," "Better Be Good to Me," "Private Dancer," "Let's Stay Together," "Steamy Windows," "The Best," "What's Love Got to Do With It?" She stretched these pop nuggets into extravagant set pieces that diluted their original potency. Are six-minute versions of many of these songs really necessary? Turner seemed to think so. Her diva stature was as much a part of the concert as were the songs that celebrated it. And on those terms, the show did work. She announced near the beginning that it was going to be a "journey of my career," a promise she dutifully kept.
Another leftover '80s icon, Lionel Richie, opened with a less flashy, more stylish performance. He pretty much stuck to the biggest of his sappy hits and dated dance jams, and kept the focus on the song (rather than the singer). That didn't make such sentimental and overworked songs as "Three Times a Lady" and "All Night Long (All Night)" any more digestible, but at least he wasn't dashing offstage after every other song to try on a new wardrobe.