For anyone curious about whether or not the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin still has "chops," they need only to have watched her take the stage Saturday, Nov. 17, at DAR Constitution Hall, to know for sure, she is still the "Queen." In a floor-length sequined gown, Franklin, 70, sashayed onto the stage and belted out songs from a career that has spanned more than 50 years to a crowd she seemed to transfix from the onset.
Like some primal language both distant and psychically familiar, Franklin's voice summoned the spirits of loss loves, better yesterdays, and hopeful tomorrows. She is still unapologetically 'raw' in deliverance, singing to the heart and soul as opposed to the ear. Franklin sailed through classic songs like "Respect," "Chain of Fools," and "Daydreaming," with audience members from 18 to 80 singing and dancing along.
Husband and wife Angus and Helene Cooper, both 69, said they fell in love to Franklin's music, which as white Montgomery County suburbanites, they considered revolutionary.
"I was trying to burn my bra and fight for civil rights and 'Gus' was coming out of a war he didn't understand and somehow we met up at a social one night and danced to 'Until You Come Back to Me.' Somehow, that song made us feel like we'd known each other for years," Helene said.
"It was like some spell over us. We got married a year later and it's been our song ever since," added Angus.
Mid-show, Franklin offered a fitting musical tribute to her "Christian Sister" the late Whitney Houston, with whom she collaborated on the 1989 song "It Isn't, It Wasn't, It Ain't Never Gonna Be" for Franklin's 1989 album Through the Storm. Franklin, often referred to by music insiders as Houston's godmother and aunt, was visibly moved during the tribute, which included screen projections of Houston's images to accompany Franklin's rendition of "I Will Always Love You."
"I watched her growth and development as an artist. It became apparent that she was the signaling of a younger generation coming in and a role model for many young vocal aspirants; a rose who came into full bloom. Let us all applaud and remember Whitney for the beautiful, giving and caring young lady and the talented artist she was, the great music and performances. Remember the hits. Forget the misses. A true superstar has gone on, flown away on the wings of love," Franklin said earlier of Houston.
In addition to the classics, Franklin treated fans to a dose of high-spirited church with a musical set of gospel songs that sent people dancing and waving down the aisles.
On hand for the performance were first lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who partied hard.