If the Essence Music Festival schedule had a time frame, no one told the Queen of Soul. Taking the stage at 10:30 p.m. Sunday at the Superdome in New Orleans, Aretha Franklin may not have been the closing Essence Music Festival 2012 act (Chaka Khan had that honor), but she delivered a set worthy of just that, in length and grandeur.
Backed by a full orchestra and five background singers, Franklin, dressed in a peach gown, opened her set with classics like “Rock Steady” and “Day Dreaming.”
“Good to be back in New Orleans,” Franklin told the crowd. “I came a long way to be with you; I drove for two days.”
Classics like “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You” and “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” followed, the latter performance boasting four female dancers draped in black dresses with red gloves, dancing Sparkle-inspired choreography. As Franklin two-stepped offstage for a costume change into a green dress accented with large crystals, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Essence Editor-in-Chief Constance C.R. White, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Essence Communications President Michelle
When Franklin returned, she sat down at a piano to play “I Will Always Love You” in tribute to the late Whitney Houston. Later, as her cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” wafted through the Superdome, Franklin expressed a small discomfort.