Aretha Franklin Winspear Opera House, Dallas Saturday, September 6, 2014
Tuxedos and glittering, fancy dresses were the preferred attire Saturday night at the Winspear Opera House. And no, the well-heeled in attendance were not there to see a production of Wagner. Soul music queen Aretha Franklin was in town for a benefit concert and the line of Lexuses for valet parking was an indication of the affluence of the crowd.
I felt grossly out of place in my jeans, golf shirt and casual shoes; and especially in the size of my wallet. With their $10 cups of wine, the major players of the Dallas area came out to celebrate a legend and contribute to a good cause.
According to official from CitySquare (the charity group sponsoring the event), someone at last year's concert by Diana Ross wrote a check for a million dollars. I had a hard time getting my mind around this figure. Is it even possible to fit $1,000,000 in that little space on a check? And these days, who even writes checks? I always curse the old lady in front of me at Kroger who waits until the last minute to start writing a check for $20 worth of groceries.
But I digress. The sold out show was a testament to the greatness of Aretha Franklin and the benevolent spirit of our area. 70 percent of last night's proceedings went directly to the charity and the vibe inside the venue felt imbibed with the good feelings of generosity.
Aretha herself seemed to feed off the positive ambiance. Beginning with "Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher" and continuing with classics such as "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" and "Think," the 72-year-old Franklin was on her game throughout the show. Indeed, her vocals were simply majestic. It's little wonder that Rolling Stone magazine named Franklin the greatest female singer in history.
Amazingly, for most of the evening, Franklin did not use background singers. Many performers, especially those as advanced in age as Franklin, use multiple background singers to compensate for failing vocal strength. Franklin not only showed no lack of vocal ability, she pushed her voice harder and harder as the night moved along.
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Even when the temperature in the Winspear rose (word was that Franklin asked for the air conditioning to be turned off to help her voice), both performer and crowd were engaged throughout the evening.
Audience members shouted encouragement, but it wasn't like Franklin needed it. When she vamped the ending to "Angel" or made an aggressive take on B.B. King's "Sweet Sixteen," the crowd's reaction was like that of a church congregation. The entire evening had the feel of a (well-financed) revival meeting.
Much of the excitement can be attributed to Franklin's 20-piece band. Featuring two drummers, two keyboardists and a large horn section, the band got those blue bloods out of their seats and dancing in the aisles. For some of these folks, this must have been the first time they've danced in years. And it's almost certain that it was the first time the men have bounced around in tuxedos.
Who knew the haves had it in them?