The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, infused the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City with some old-time gospel feeling Saturday evening.
Franklin seemed to be in a good mood all night in the Mark G. Etess Arena as she came on stage in a silver dress singing and dancing to the Jackie Wilson song, “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” and she danced herself off stage 85 minutes later after singing one of her biggest hits, “Respect,” as her encore.
Franklin, the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, was content to stay in her wheelhouse of singles from the 1960s and ’70s, even though her recording career spans 52 years.
By the third song, Franklin told the full, but not sold-out crowd in the 5,000-capacity arena that, “We’re going back to old Atlantic Records label,” where she had her biggest success. In succession, she sang her singles “Day Dreaming,” “Oh Me Oh My (I’m a Fool for You Baby)“ and “Something He Can Feel.” Franklin was in a frisky mood Saturday as she finished off the song touching her own backside.
Everyone stood for Franklin when she came on stage, but they sat respectfully in the audience for her first few songs.
Franklin took the lead in charging up the crowd when she said, “It’s party time. You’ll come to party? Do you have on dancing shoes?” before she whipped out one of her classics, “Chain of Fools,” which made some of the people who had seats on the floor stand up and dance.
Even though Franklin is now 70, her tone is singular, and her gospel-fueled approach to singing soul and R&B is still like no one else’s. She seems to have lost a little bit of power from her younger days, but it also could be the case that she didn’t feel like showing off too much Saturday.
After about a half hour of singing, Franklin took a short one-song break to let her band and the 10-piece horn section play. She came back to sing a couple of songs that were not her own, jazz singer James Moody’s “Moody’s Mood for Love” and a tribute to her now deceased friend, Whitney Houston, with her rendition of “I Will Always Love You.”
Franklin called Houston, “one of the finest singers who ever stepped in front of a microphone. ... She was my Christian sister.” Pictures of Houston flashed on the video screens on the left and right side of the stage, including a picture of Houston and Franklin together. It was the first time that night Franklin accompanied herself on piano while she sang.
One of the highlights of the evening was Franklin’s rendition of her first Atlantic Records single, “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” from 1967. She added both an a cappella section to the song and an improvised ending that had some people standing and applauding at its conclusion.
A 19-time Grammy Award winner, Franklin told the crowd that she was taking them back to the Bethel New Baptist Church before launching into a pure gospel number. Franklin started her music career singing in her father’s church at age 10 and spent several years recording gospel music and touring the gospel circuit.
This was Franklin’s second appearance in Atlantic City since she had a major health scare for a never disclosed illness and underwent surgery in 2010. Some of her fans were afraid that she might die or never recover.
But there Franklin was, singing her heart out to the delight of the thousands in the audience. Before she left the stage for good, she said, “I love you, Philadelphia. I love you, Atlantic City,” and the feeling in the crowd Saturday was mutual.
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