Tina’s Polish gig was pivotal for her and the country
Described as one of the era-defining icons of the 1980s, the death of Tina Turner has made headline news across the world, not least in Poland where her three visits to the country have long been enshrined in cultural folklore.
First visiting in 1981, the rock’n’roll legend appeared in Katowice’s Spodek and Warsaw’s Torwar arena during one of the most tumultuous chapters in modern Polish history.
With the country edging towards Martial Law, music journalist Maria Szabłowska told PAP that Turner’s arrival provided a chink of light amid the all-consuming feeling of looming catastrophe.
“There was nothing in the shops and the mood on the streets was terrible,” recalled Szabłowska. “But I will never forget this concert – in all the hopelessness, it was as if we glimpsed some light at the end of the tunnel.”
Organised by Pagart, a state-run agency responsible for attracting foreign acts, the decision to book her had been criticised in some sections of the media as a waste of money – this in spite of the rock goddess reportedly performing for a highly modest fee.
Her critics, however, found themselves silenced. Performing in a daring, shimmery dress, she gave a high-octane performance that was soon branded as “unforgettable”.
The following day, on December 4th, 1981, she repeated this in Katowice with one DJ later comparing her gig to “a cosmic experience”.
Less than 10 days later Martial Law was declared, plunging the country into crisis. But as Poland lurched down turbulent, unmapped roads, Turner’s career found itself spectacularly re-energised.
Sometimes called “the greatest musical comeback in history”, the following years saw her conquer the world with megahits such as What’s Love Got to Do With It, The Best and We Don’t Need Another Hero.
When she returned to Poland in 1996 it was as one of the planet’s biggest stars. Taking to the stage on August 23rd, 1996, her appearance was met by an ecstatic crowd, many of whom had travelled across the country to see the diva.
With Michael Jackson appearing just a month later, for many it was these two gigs that truly captured the untrammelled optimism of the 90s – after decades spent behind an Iron Curtain, these felt like touchstone moments for a country learning to enjoy itself again.
As is commonly accepted though among her Polish fans, the diva saved her very best till last. Billed as her farewell tour (she would, in actuality, tour again in 2008), the Twenty Four Seven Tour attracted worldwide interest as fans clamoured for what they assumed would be her last performances in public.
Grossing USD 125.5 million at the box office, the 121 shows included a stop in Sopot for the very last gig of the European leg.
Strutting around a stage that was 100-metres wide and six-metres high, over 60,000 crammed into the Sopot Hippodrome to attend a concert that many regard as the most important to ever be held in the Tri-City.
“She floated over the audience on a special lift, whipping the crowd up in a frenzy,” remembered one fan. “This magical two-hours passed in a flash – bursting with energy, the whole of Sopot Hippodrome went absolutely crazy.”
Watched by millions on TV, this captivating concert has gone down in legend.
Passing away yesterday at the age of 83, Polish celebrities and media figures have flocked to pay tribute on social media.
Monika Olejnik posted her ticket from Turner’s 1996 Warsaw gig, whilst Maciej Orłoś published a picture of him with the songstress taken when he interviewed her in a Moscow hotel in the 90s.
Pop star Patrycja Markowska also paid tribute on Instagram, reminiscing about how she would spend hours watching VHS tapes of the music sensation.