June 28, 2011

Aretha Franklin Review - Wolf Trap - June 21, 2011

Aretha Franklin is a diva in every sense of the term; in the classic sense, she has a voice unparalleled in mainstream music, and since she knows it, in the more popular sense of the word she demands R-E-S-P-E-C-T, especially at her show at Wolf Trap last Tuesday.  Respect for her opinion on how her voice should sound coming through the speakers. Respect for her piano playing, the lesser known of her talents.  Respect for her repertoire, which includes a lot of songs you have never heard (and can--so conveniently--purchase exclusively at Walmart).  Respect for her image, projected prominently behind her on a screen at the Filene Center.

And the diva did not disappoint... entirely.  Donning two big, beautiful gowns, and one high silver heel, Aretha hobbled around onstage like she wasn't 69 years old with a broken toe (hence the one heel and not two) for more than an hour and a half.

This show was on my concert bucket list, and I had high hopes.  But I'll start with the shows low, which was a big one: she performed next to none of her hits, several of which had places on the official playlist.  No Chain of Fools, no Respect, no Higher & Higher, no Think.  If the Soundproof Score was weighted, it would've sank because of this selection.

Alas, it is not, and there were a few highs.  I gave the venue high marks because without it being Wolf Trap (purportedly her favorite venue), she would've cancelled due to injury.  And the mix is always fantastic there, even if Aretha insisted on chirping at the sound guy all night.
The more obscure set was littered with vocal runs, riffs and trills, and a smoothe voice with clarity expected of someone thirty years her junior, and her piano playing is something to be recognized.  But it was the band--back-up singers and brass--that did a lot of the heavy lifting, giving her voice a movie score backdrop.

Combine all that with a series of glamour shot images on the big screen behind Aretha and a few awkward moments when she introduced "VIPs" in the audience who weren't there, and the show ended up being everything one could expect from Aretha: wholly unpredictable.

Aretha Franklin - Wolf Trap - June 22, 2011 - Composite Score: 7.6

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