Many a young girl (and old ones, as well) have belted out Aretha Franklin’s anthems like Chain of Fools, Never Loved a Man and House That Jack Built with fervor and passion, playacting at commanding an audience the way the Queen does.
Image Courtesy of Shrew
Rather than me trying to inadequately relay the experience, here it is straight from the horse’s mouth:
Imagine yourself walking through the fabulous streets of New York City…not the gritty streets of the 70’s and 80’s , but the lush sparkling streets of midtown in the 60’s.The lush New York of Holly Go-Lightly…
The sophisticated city of May and Nichols…
The controversial vibe of Dylan and Cafe Waa…
and one site you would likely see is
The Queen of Soul, the Empress of Music…sold out for a two night engagement at the world famous Radio City Music Hall. But, this is 2008, right?
Not so for this gal, for one night it was 1966 and I was seeing Aretha.
The energy was electric as we walked into the beautiful Radio City Music Hall.
I wasn’t sure if it was my excitement or the design of the interior, but everything I saw assumed this golden rose hue. If you have never been to Radio City Music Hall you must understand that no detail is without the grace and beauty of art deco influences.
From the etched “Rockettes Glass” overseeing the main lobby…
to the grand mural along the master stairwell.
Even the bathroom looks like a set from a Fred and Ginger movie…
There are Rockettes even waiting to take you back to your seat…
So we made our way to the doors. As we approached the full glow of the stage radiated through the door into the hall.
And the doors opened….
The full splendor of Radio City can not be told through words and pictures. The grandure of the space is lost. I was pleased to see despite being in the second to last row on the third mezz. our view of the stage was terrific.
The place filled up rather quickly. The crowd was a melange of young packs of twenty-somethings to couples reliving there 1960’s memories. The atmosphere equaled a gospel revival…reverant and jublient all in the same breath.
The lights dimmed and the funky pulse of a tight ensamble pierced the air. Then the lights lifted…
The crowd bubbled with anticipation as the band limbered up…then THE moment.
A legend is announced~
“Ladies and Gentlemen, the EMPRESS OF MUSIC, AREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEETHA FRAAAAAAANKLIN.”
The music vamped for a while and from stage right she walked on, giving a few saucy side bobs of her head and then headed center stage.
And then…She sang. Those first few notes hit my ears and my heart lept. Vibrations of sound that she was making, left her throat and traveled through the air directly connecting with my ears. At first all I heard was emotion; pure energy and soul heaped out of one being and offered up to hundreds.
My eyes welled, was I really hearing the same woman as she sang that I danced to when I was four? That I grooved to when I was 15? That I made countless others listen to when I was 20? That I sang with at the top of my lungs while I drove to work the day before? Live, here, now, in front of me, sounding every bit the woman I have heard on record all my life.
Then in an instant: I was present hearing what Aretha was singing, “Your Love is Lifting Me Higher” as if an ode to each and everyone of us who continue to love her. Aretha shifted to a rendition of My Funny Valentine that was bluesy and introspective. Then she went back to one of my favorite songs…her number one hit cover of Don’t Play That Song.
Now, if you have come to read the set list I will disappoint you…I stink at getting them. I do know, she made Moody’s Mood For Love a worthy inclusion for the set, gliding effortlessly through each vocal obsticle slung her way.
And then before I knew what was happening…”bada-bang, bada-bang, bada-bang, bada-bang. HOO- What you want? Hoo-Baby I got it” Radio City errupted…all jumped to their feet enmass to groove. All, excpet for the guy sitting next to me. Dude? Really? You can sit through one of the most electric songs ever? I guess so because he just sat clapping together his finger tips in time like he was listening to a Bach concert. Weird no? All I could think is he MUST be bad in bed.
Ms. Franklin welcomed to the stage Ali-Ollie Woodson of Temptation fame to “take us to church” with some gospel. And we went to church. One word for Aretha and gospel…resplendent!
Halfway through the show, Aretha welcomed her seventeen year old son KeCalf, a christian hip-hop artist onto the stage. He did a yoeman’s job of performing while his mother rested. The two songs felt long and I was accutely aware of the crowd’s discomfort. As a treat, Ms. Franklin sang Chain of Fools upon return.
All in all the evening was all I wished…then the strains of Old Landmark began and Aretha and crew raised the roof. All concerned were out of our seats and boogying on down
“Shouting, shouting, shouting, shouting…Stay in the service of the Lord.”
and off she went…stage right.
Clapping… and many vamps of the band.
On she came…
The encore she chose was the seasonal, Berlin’s Easter Bonnet. As she sang, you could not help but feel this one song was more for her than for us. That fact did not deminish the enjoyment of the simple melody and wish.
Soul, Gospel, Jazz, Contemporary R&B, American Standard…why indeed…Empress of Music is accurate.
90 minutes…much much too short.
Click here for video. Take that Beyonce’.