On a blustery Saturday evening in February, battling with Storm Dennis, myself and around 2,000 Tina Turner fans bundled into the Liverpool Empire to watch a show which celebrated the 50-year career of the iconic Tina Turner. The show was a tribute act and I must confess, I’m always slightly cynical about tributes, especially when this particular artist could so easily be caricatured and completely miss the mark.
The only tribute acts I have ever seen are down the local boozer, so I was also cynical about the choice of venue too. The Empire is a huge theatre, and would it sell out for a tribute act? The answer is yes, the place was full to capacity! So how do you sell out a tribute act in such a prominent venue? You get a star to headline.
The artist playing the role of Tina was Elesha Paul Moses (previously made a household name from her television appearances on The Voice and X Factor as well as playing the title role in the Whitney Queen of the night tour). Elesha is a superb performer with oodles of charisma and stage presence to play Tina Turner to perfection but being so well known from her TV appearances will undoubtedly help get bums on seats! Credit, where credit is due, this girl had the audience whooping from their seats from the get-go and portrayed Tina to perfection. Her vocal prowess was phenomenal with a huge range, and a magnificent belting voice, all whilst imitating the Queen of Rock and Roll. But what got me was her sheer energy on stage. This girl was unstoppable for a full two hours and I couldn’t help but wonder how on earth the real Tina Turner matched this in gigs aged 70 years old, which was the last time she performed a major concert (she’s now 80!)
The set list covered everything you would have hoped for from her fifty-year career in music and journeyed from her early solo career hits such as ‘Let’s Stay Together’ to the dramatic Bond theme of 1995 ‘Goldeneye’. There wasn’t a theatrical narrative of her life story but there was a sense of theatricality in the performances of each number, especially in the fabulous finale of the first half when she performed ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero’ from the film ‘Beyond Thunderdrome’ complete with full Mad Max costume. Elesha’s mimickry of Tina Turner, when speaking and her dance moves; from the stylised ‘ticks’ to the staccato movements which Tina Turner is renowned for, were incredibly accurate. In fact, you would almost believe you were watching the real thing, until she referred to Tina in third person and in a cheeky wink of an eye, you were in on the act with her.
But it wasn’t just the star who made this gig what it was, the production quality of the lights and sound were also impressive and created an atmosphere of a big bucks stadium tour with smoke, costume changes and live band which all helped to create this illusion of the ‘real thing’. The three backing singers/dancers matched the high energy performance of Tina Turner with some incredibly choreographed numbers throughout the show and didn’t skip a beat in the many hits she performed. In the second act, one of the three backing vocalists (Amara Smith) performed ‘Whatever You Want’ from Tina’s last studio album (‘Twenty Four Seven’, 1999) and belted out a powerful rendition of the hit song with superb vocal clarity. This allowed ‘Tina’ the much needed costume change to lead into her finale which had the audience up on their feet, dancing in the aisles and cheering to ‘Nutbush City Limits’, ‘What’s Love Got to Do with it’ and ‘Proud Mary’ . . .leaving us all in awe of this fantastic celebration of an icon.
I like Tina Turner, but I can’t call myself a fan. That said, I had a brilliant night out. Elesha Paul Moses performed all the popular hits you would expect, it was high energy, entertaining and with a professional quality, all in all a great night out! If you’re not a fan when you walk into the gig, you will be by the time you walk out.
Reviewer: Johanna Hassouna-Smith
Reviewed: 15th February 2020
North West End UK Rating ★★★★