Aretha Franklin performed Oct. 23, 2004, at Hancher Auditorium at the University of Iowa. Here is The Gazette’s review of that concert, entitled “Aretha dazzles despite troubles.”
By Dick Hogan, The Gazette
IOWA CITY — There’s only a handful of entertainers that nearly everybody recognizes on a first-name basis — and Aretha is one of them.
A sold-out crowd at Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City on Saturday night warmly welcomed Aretha Franklin and her 90-minute show. But the crowd did not see Aretha at her best. She was bothered by a throat problem, perhaps a cold. Small coughs between songs or during an instrumental bridge and her inability to reach ultra high notes a couple times were tip-offs. You could tell it was frustrating for the “Queen of Soul.”
Another problem was when the 20-member band/background singers cranked up to full force. They were outstanding, but Aretha’s words were sometime buried in the mix.
The 13-member band, Al Naylor and the I-380 Express, were local. The other musicians were Aretha’s people, including her son, Teddy White on guitar.
Despite the throat condition, Aretha still sang well. The deep feeling she instills into lyrics sounds natural, never contrived, perhaps a benefit from her early years in gospel music. She began singing as a teen for her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, at his Detroit church.
She has the talent to take a song and make it her own. A prime example of her ability to breathe new life into a tune was her reading of “If Ever I Would Leave You,” from “Camelot.” Her version was simply stunning. (I hope Robert Goulet has heard her rendition.)
Aretha’s Hancher show was well-paced. It was not a constant barrage of hits or fast songs.
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She dazzled with a couple of hot numbers, then shifted to midtempo before getting into a soulful ballad as only she can sing them. Then the cycle would start over.
One highlight was her jubilant gospel stylings of “I’m Just Holding On.” Aretha, the band and the backup trio were all cookin’.
“Respect” turned into a long band jam session after Aretha sang her part. Midway through, she slowly danced off the stage, letting the musicians share the spotlight.
The show was not a parade of Aretha’s hits, but she sang enough of them to please most audience members, including my 8-year-old daughter, Kelly, who enjoyed hearing her favorite, “Chain of Fools.”
Late in the show, Aretha left center stage and played fine piano while singing the title track from her first new album in six years, “So Damn Happy.”
There was no encore, perhaps due to her voice condition, but an odd thing happened after Aretha left the stage.
Fans were standing and applauding loudly, hoping to coax her back. One of Aretha’s people came on stage with a large glamour shot picture of the singer and put it on the piano. Not exactly the encore expected. Most likely it was a hint to buy the pictures in the lobby.