*It was 1968, the year of our discontent. Martin Luther King Jr. was about six weeks away from losing his life, courtesy of an assassin’s bullets. Democrats were gearing up for what would be a historic convention. My brother was a junior in college and I was an obsessed fourth-grader who begged my mother to take me to see Aretha Franklin at the Cincinnati Gardens.
And as mesmerizing as she was to a 10-year-old nearly 50 years ago, she was equally so last night at L.A.’s Microsoft Theatre.
A packed house that included celebrities such as Halle Berry, Angela Bassett, Freda Payne, Loretta Devine, Tika Sumpter, Alan Bergman, Ray Parker Jr., Shonda Rhimes and Berry Gordy Jr., couldn’t get enough of The Queen. Even her opening act, comedian Jonathan Slocumb; and gospel singer Carlton Pearson, elevated the overall experience with their collective brilliance.
Franklin, who changed gowns three times, sang a healthy mixture of her mega-hits and then added a few new ones before closing out the night with Respect. Some of the highlights included: Freeway of Love, Think, Chain of Fools, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Ain’t No Way, Giving Him Something He Can Feel and Precious Memories, an inspiring duet she did with gospel singer Melvin Williams. Franklin, who had some serious health issues about three years ago, also talked about that experience while sharing the stage with Williams.
Additionally, she belted out Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive and Bergman’s How Do I Keep the Music Playing. Would I have preferred to hear Angel and Amazing Grace? Yes, but the reality is Franklin could sing Happy Birthday all night and no one would likely complain.
She’s that good live.
Throughout the night Franklin’s vocals were pitch perfect. She was engaging and still moves pretty well for a 73-year-old diva celebrating her 50th year in the business.
She was, just as I remembered, divinely royal.
Franklin’s next stop is The Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara, Calif. on 8/6; Oracle Arena, Oakland, Calif. on 8/10 and Ceasar’s Place, Las Vegas on 8/14