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ARETHA FRANKLIN: THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL. JUNE 26, 2009
When The Queen is in residence - be it the Queen of England at Buckingham Palace or The Queen of Soul at the Hollywood Bowl, there is a certain sense that everything is its right place, everything is indeed alright!

Aretha Franklin hadn't graced the famed L.A. venue in 35 years. It is - as anyone who has ever graced the vast stage - truly something special. The Hollywood Bowl on a summer's night, brilliant accoustics and sound, a packed house is incomparable. Ask Anita Baker, Dianne Reeves, Natalie Cole - all of whom will gladly share about the magic.

Aretha in great form inspired by the surroundings felt the magic, June 26, 2009 and while the world reeled with the shock of Michael Jackson's passing the day before, Aretha was there to remind one and all that there's nothing like soul power as a healing force.

With a full orchestra, a right-on-time rhythm section and and a complement of harmonious background vocalists, Aretha gave the audience just what they wanted - the classic hits and more.

With longtime conductor, H.B. Barnum leading the way, a medley of tunes from Aretha's "Sparkle" melded into the movie theme "The Summer Knows" and Sly Stone's "Hot Fun In The Summertime" (reportedly the title of Aretha's next album).

With regal bearing, The Queen entered the stage to rapturous applause and launched into a funky reading of Jackie Wilson's "Higher & Higher." Just as funky, familiar Franklin chestnuts, "Baby I Love You" and "Think."

As if to remind the gathered multitude the truth about how she approaches her music, "Aint Nothing Like the Real Thing" was just that with backup singers (including longtime Luther Vandross associate Fonzi Thornton) providing a perfect cushion for Aretha's trademark swoops and soars.

Of course, "Respect" is a mandatory requirement of any Aretha show but the ever-beautiful "Angel" (penned by late sister Carolyn and delivered with the original spoken intro) is not and it was easily a highpoint of the proceedings.

Following a zesty "Chain of Fools" (with inevitable audience participation), an intermission during which a Brazilian dance troup entertained was followed by a fine reading of Aretha's very first hit single for Columbia Records, "Today I Sing The Blues" delivered with honest emotion.

"Don't Play That Song" and then the highpoint of the evening: Aretha displaying the interpretative brilliance that is the singular quality evident from her 1960 Columbia debut on. With the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra providing the perfect accompaniment, The Queen of Soul standing center stage bringing her soulful magic to Andrew Lloyd-Weber's "As If We Never Said Goodbye" from "Sunset Boulevard." Pure brilliance.

The song that first took Aretha to national recognition in 1967 ("I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You"), a nod to her gospel roots with "Old Landmark," the timeless "Ain't No Way" and an appropriate two minutes of silence for Michael Jackson, a new song ("I Adore You") with Aretha at the piano and we're off down the "Freeway Of Love."

Uplifting the admiring crowd with her rendition of "The Greatest Love Of All," Aretha - in good spirits with some witty banter (including a hilarious few lines on the subject of President Obama - 'girls, he sure is fine, isn't he?') - showed why she remains The Queen, a natural woman in full effect.

With special thanks to David Brokaw

About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of SoulMusic.com and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create SoulMusic.com Records as a leading reissue label.
  
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