At 75, the Detroit legend proved Thursday she’s still “The Queen of Soul” in a show that featured hits such as “Respect,” “Chain of Fools” and “Baby I Love You.” Review, photo gallery.
There were moments during Thursday night’s Aretha Franklin concert at Grand Rapids’ DeVos Performance Hall when it was easy to imagine a 25-year-old Aretha electrifying a raucous crowd with her then-fresh and fervid renditions of “Respect,” “Baby I Love You” and “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman.”
Now 75, Franklin still oozes that unparalleled, gospel-fueled and soulful vocal flare five decades later, something that her fans — old and young — seem to appreciate with a zeal that matches that of their cherished Michigan soul icon.
So it was only apropos that Franklin, clad in a glittery blue dress, would kick off the much-anticipated concert with 1987’s “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” especially since the delayed show was rescheduled from October.
The Grand Rapids audience responded with a rousing standing ovation, something that would be repeated frequently throughout the hour-and-25-minute concert that recapped a handful of highlights from the Queen of Soul’s superstar career.
“OK, love you right back,” Franklin gushed.
It was a night that blended nostalgia with passion for Detroit-bred soul and gospel music sung by a legend who might not have the stamina and full-throttled power of her youth but who can still belt it out in audience-pleasing fashion and who still possesses that extraordinary and distinctive soulfulness that only Aretha exudes.
Backed by her own accomplished band and an ensemble of local musicians (including Bill Vits, Robert Mulligan, Laurie Sears, Ed Clifford, Wright McCargar, Gary McCourry, Paul Brewer among others), Franklin — and her fans — seemed most comfortable with the set’s most familiar classics, including “Chain of Fools,” “Freeway of Love” and, of course, “Respect.”
But when she sat at the grand piano midway through the concert to show off her keyboard chops on “A Brand New Me” followed by an inspiring gospel interlude, it recalled the sort of spine-tingling aura that Franklin must have first inspired many years ago.
Sure, the singer — who’s weathered a variety of well-publicized health issues over the years — took breaks and intermissions while her band played on, but this is a performer who still genuinely adores seeing a room full of fans raising the roof to her music.
“It looks like you came to have a good time,” Franklin quipped in one of many nods to her Grand Rapids fans. “We appreciate you so much.”
The feeling was mutual.
PHOTO GALLERY: Aretha Franklin at DeVos Performance Hall
Copyright 2017, Spins on Music LLC