A semi-retiring Aretha Franklin is nothing short of regal at Ravinia

Photos by Andy Argyrakis

Long before an announcer introduced Aretha Franklin as an 18-time Grammy Award winner, the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and someone who sits atop Rolling Stone magazine’s “100 Greatest Singers Of All Time” list, the wide-ranging audience at a comfortably crowded Ravinia already knew they were in the presence of royalty. Once the “Queen Of Soul” actually stepped out from behind the curtain to personally recall “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” a nod to her late duet partner George Michael, everyone immediately rose to their feet, enamored by not only her regal presence, but the fact she could still belt it out with considerable gusto.

Aretha Franklin definitely socked it to ‘em and beamed at the reverence being heaped upon her, even remarking “I came so close to moving to Chicago, but I couldn’t leave Detroit.”

While the 75-year-old version of Franklin with nearly six decades in the business might not match the pure perfection of her Columbia or Atlantic era (perhaps most noticeable at points of the already challenging ballad “Skylark”), it was certainly sturdy and well worth the price of either a pavilion or lawn ticket. Considering she’s battled serious but undisclosed health issues for quite some time (including the postponement of this very date) and just announced her probable retirement from extensive touring, that status was a true testament to her talent, tenacity and faith.

Yet Franklin gave God all the glory for her healing, offering the Sunday crowd another dose of church with “Old Landmark,” and later, taking a seat behind the piano for “My Cup Runneth Over” and “Brand New Me.” In between, the singer with a whopping 41 studio albums and 112 singles could barely scratch the surface of her extensive repertoire, but gave a fairly balanced overview that included the certifiable classics “Until You Come Back To Me,” “Something He Can Feel,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “Chain Of Fools.”

Out of the more than 100-minutes of music, Franklin appeared for most of it, sans one breather when many musicians from both her traveling troupe and Ravinia broke out some solos. Despite not moving around that much, the headliner rocked her pink coat, silver dress and high heels with a slim figure, periodically proclaiming “push it on up” with roof-raising motions during a mind-blowing mash-up of “Rolling In The Deep” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” possibly becoming the only person on the planet who could provoke the question “Adele who?”

Those gestures continued during Franklin’s own “Freeway Of Love,” which could’ve very well taken the prize for the longest version of that ‘80s comeback track performed in the history of humanity. However, it didn’t seem to tire anyone out, especially when it turned towards scats of praise and built additional anticipation for the mandatory “Respect.”

Aretha definitely socked it to ‘em and beamed at the reverence being heaped upon her, even remarking “I came so close to moving to Chicago, but I couldn’t leave Detroit.” She dropped one final surprise during the final bows, stacking the standard “God bless you” with an unexpected “see you next time,” which could very well indicate at least one more chance to catch a live glimpse of unrivaled greatness.

For additional information on Aretha Franklin, visit ArethaFranklin.net.

Upcoming concert highlights at Ravinia include Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons (Sept. 8); Stevie Nicks (Sept. 9-10); Smokey Robinson (Sept. 15) and “I Love The 90s” starring TLC, Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath, Biz Markie, All-4-One, O-Town and Snap! (Sept. 16). For additional details, visit Ravinia.org.