Archival review: Tina Turner lights up UTC Arena with ‘mighty jolt of electricity’

The Chattanooga Times, Monday, Nov. 11, 1985

To mark the death of Tina Turner, the Chattanooga Times Free Press is republishing this Times review of her 1985 show at UTC. Read the Chattanooga Free Press review here. 

She was everything they said she would be and more — dynamic, explosive, sensual and exciting, possessing more energy than a roomful of kindergartners and the agility and stamina of a woman half her age. She was the one and only Tina Turner, Superwoman of the '80s (and a Tennessee native), and she gave the UTC Arena and 9,000 fans — one of the biggest reserve seat crowds in arena history — a mighty jolt of electricity in her Saturday evening concert performance of an hour and 40 minutes.

It was THE show of the fall season for the arena, bar none; only Springsteen might have offered more.

Backed by a powerful rock band of her own, Turner aggressively worked her way through her multi-platinum Capitol LP, "Private Dancer," (singing all but the no-longer timely "1984" of David Bowie). The album was the vehicle of her overwhelmingly successful comeback as a solo artist after over 20 years in the music business.

A large two-sided screen above the stage, one that enabled fans on most sides of the arena to see the action close-up, opened with pre-recorded teasers of Turner's backstage preparations before capturing her big entrance. She kicked off — literally, with karate-type dance movements the evening with Show Some Respect, decked out in purple heels and a three-piece, peg legged white pants suit. Her dancing was lightning fast, her voice rough, chilling and saturated with emotional appeal on Rupert Hine's brilliant I Might Have Been Queen and two numbers from the Ike and Tina days — River Deep Mountain High and Nutbush City Limits, with its no-holds-barred rock approach and honky-tonk piano/saxophone. Often she ascended a high platform and played to 'fans seated behind the stage.

By this time the crowd was well aware that the band was not only good, but it was nearly as much fun to watch as the star. Two standouts all night were synthesizer/saxophone/percussion man Tim Capello, who, with his long hair, spectacular muscles and sexy moves reminded one of a cross between David Lee Roth and Sha Na Na's Bowser, and pianist Kenny Moore, who joined Tina in several vocal duets and as her dance partner.

During the number Better Be Good to Me, for which the stage was surrounded by moving spotlights that made it look like a cage, Turner exited for her first costume change, returning in a skinny silver number that looked like a pared-down version of her costume from the movie Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. During this part of the show she per formed her biggest hits of the past two years — Private Dancer, with white boas, her voice alternately low and shattering; Thunderdome accompanied on screen by clips of the Mad Max movie, followed by her current single, One of the Living, also featured in the film.

Turner toyed with the audience on the biggest hit of all, What's Love Got to Do With It, pitting the girls against the guys for the chanting of the title phrase.

Turner expressed appreciation for her band and manager Roger Davies, thanking light, sound and production crews as well. Then the encores began. The Times had already alerted fans that Turner would do a slow and sensual version of the Beatles' Help!, which emphasized the gospel aspects of her voice splendidly, and Springsteen's Dancing in the Dark. Turner said the Boss (Springsteen) promised to write her a song, but until he does it, she would borrow one of his. But nobody, particularly those fans who loved her in the '60s and '70s, really expected her to do her rough, then raucous, version of Proud Mary, which ended up as one of the highlights of the evening.

Earlier Richard Page and his band Mr. Mister entertained with their alluring brand of '80s rock. Unfortunately, the sound was so loud and so poorly mixed that his vocals, which are the quartet's strongest feature, were not prominent until the eerie, haunting Kyrie and the ethereal hit single, Broken Wings were performed. Other cuts were snappy and upbeat, some in a reggae vein reminiscent of the Police, but the group lacked charisma, making their portion of the show only mildly interesting.