Collier’s Weekly: Tina Turner’s Final Pittsburgh Concert

23 years ago — unbeknownst to the crowd at the Mellon Arena — Tina Turner played Pittsburgh for the last time.


On Sept. 30, 2000, Tina Turner made her last Pittsburgh appearance.

That night, fans picked their way through the then-Mellon Arena parking lots to see the Queen of Rock and Roll perform more than 20 hits and covers. She sang “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” “The Best,” “Private Dancer” and “We Don’t Need Another Hero.” She covered Sly & The Family Stone (opening with “I Want to Take You Higher”), Otis Redding (“Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay”) and even Robert Palmer (“Addicted to Love.”)

She ended the main set, inevitably, with “Proud Mary,” before returning for a roof-raising encore of “Nutbush City Limits” and “Twenty Four Seven.”

I wasn’t there.

In my defense, I was 15 at the time and more fixated on seeing Stone Temple Pilots and Everclear at X-Fest. Turner is one of those artists I had to work my way back to in adulthood. Though I didn’t quite have the musical maturity to appreciate her at the time, I do wish I would’ve somehow ended up at Mellon Arena on Sept. 30, 2000 — as many likely did, knowing that another chance to see this particular legend might not roll around.

It didn’t take Turner’s death to make it clear she wasn’t swinging through Pittsburgh again; she was 83 when she died last week and had long since retired from live performance. Still, it serves as a reminder to me that concerts offer opportunities to see icons and trailblazers live and close to home, and those opportunities shouldn’t be missed.

It can be difficult to guess, of course, when the last chance to spend an evening with a titan will arrive. My father told me about the first time he bought a Rolling Stones ticket under the assumption it would be their last tour: It was 1989. And the Elton John farewell tour, which at least theoretically has now wrapped up, came through Pittsburgh on three separate occasions.

In other cases, though, artists have made their good-bye jaunts known in advance. Unless Paul Simon changes his mind in a pretty profound way, I attended his final Pittsburgh concert, on Sept. 17, 2018; it was moving and virtuosic. Bob Seger made a final local stop on Oct. 17, 2019, noting that he had first played “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” in the Steel City a staggering 51 years earlier.

Sadly, there are also times when I saw an artist’s final Pittsburgh stop not because they had drawn it up that way, but because they were gone too soon. No one in the Benedum Center on May 17, 2004 would’ve guessed that David Bowie would never be back to town again. As Bowie led the audience through a career-spanning set list, however — from strutting onstage with “Rebel Rebel” on through clearly unsettling some of the crowd with “I’m Afraid of Americans” and wrapping up with “Suffragette City” — neither he nor the crowd knew he was months away from the heart attack that would mark the end of his major tours.

When Bowie died — within months of Prince, who I was fortunate enough to see the same year — it served as an imperative to me: See everyone I can. Time, logistics and ticket prices often make that a challenge, of course; none of us can be at every concert. But when one of the great performers comes through, I try, whether or not it’s marketed as a farewell jaunt.

Will that lead to me buying as many Springsteen tickets as I can until he finally hangs up his guitar? Yup. Will I regret going to those shows? Absolutely not.

He’s coming through later this summer, by the way. I already have my seat. And another ticket for his gig in D.C. a week earlier.

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