It was a night of being in the presence of a living legend last night at the Microsoft Theater, in Los Angeles. The orchestra was playing different tunes, including Sly and The Family Stone’s “Hot Fun in the Summer Time,” one of my personal favorites, then Aretha walked onto the stage in a golden gown and she took the mic. I hate to get sentimental, but I would say that a tear did come to my eye the moment I heard her hit her first note when she started with the Jackie Wilson hit “(Your Love Keeps Lifting me) Higher and Higher.” She played everything that you would have wanted her to play and more. The second song was her iconic version of Carole King’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman” and they just kept coming.
She performed about six songs, and at the end of “Chain of Fools” she put the mic down and started saying thank you to her crowd and waving to everyone. A lot of us were wondering if that was it; there was no way that could be it. She walked off stage, gospel music was played and she came back out after fifteen minutes dressed in a stunning black dress and she continued on with the gospel set.
It was truly amazing to see Aretha Franklin. At 73 years old and one of the most inspiring women in music—Aretha still has the energy of a woman in their twenties (if not more). Throughout the night fans frantically and continuously shouted how much they loved her. It was sweet, but almost a bit much. Aretha’s voice is immaculate and I could not have asked for anything more. She ended the night with, of course, “Respect.”
It was also a star-studded event. A couple people were in the house worth mentioning: Halle Berry was in the front row, Sugar Shane Mosely made an appearance to promote his upcoming fight at The Forum, and the founder of Motown, Barry Gordy was there to see Aretha. Ms. Franklin gave her grace and “Respect” to him. It was a nice moment to see these two living legends look at each other and smile across the audience. It was truly a stellar moment.
Comedian Jonathan Slocumb started the night off with some very funny jokes that basically compared and contrasted the current times with the good ol’ days while doing some very nice impressions of Smokey Robinson and The Temptations. He sang the ABCs in a Smokey Robinson voice proving that it didn’t matter what Smokey sang, the women loved him because he was smooth.
Not that their needs to be any validation but Aretha really is the Queen of Soul.
Words: Wes Marsala
Photography: Microsoft Theater/Juan Ocampo