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"I may be 80," Kitt said midway through the evening. "But I'm still purring!" And purr she did, through more than two dozen of the songs that have made her an icon across a six-decade career. Flashing a pair of still-perfect legs -- and toying with a few helpless males in the audience -- she brought perfect comic timing to classics like "Speaking of Love" ("I could be passionate/If there were cash in it"), "Old Fashioned Girl," "C'est Si Bon" and, of course, her trademark "I Want to Be Evil."
Kitt's elegantly strange voice seems hardly to have aged at all. It's still supple and completely theatrical, sliding effortlessly from sultry growl to coquettish whisper to full-blown roar. But Kitt didn't just sing onstage -- she lived the songs, strutting and kicking and slinking her way through the evening, sometimes just letting her hips do the talking.
And while most of the show was playfully tongue-in-cheek, Kitt showed her deeper side, too, bringing real heartbreak and despair to songs like "Guess Who I Saw Today" and "If You Go Away" (the Jacques Brel song also known as "Ne Me Quitte Pas").
-- Stephen Brookes
"We're gonna mix the very old with the very new," said the legendary songstress Chaka Khan, setting the tone for her show Sunday at the Warner Theatre. The former naturally came from her work with '70s funk outfit Rufus and her '80s solo material, and the latter was culled from her latest album, "Funk This." In addition to the old and the new, Khan threw in tracks that other artists have borrowed and a couple that were kind of blue, all of which added up to an engaging performance crossing different genres, eras and styles.
Khan's current tour reunites her with Tony Maiden, Rufus guitarist and co-writer of some of the group's best-known songs, which added an extra layer of excitement to the vintage material. "Do You Love What You Feel," "You Got the Love," "Tell Me Something Good" and "Sweet Thing" inspired dancing and squeals of delight from those music lovers for whom the name "Rufus" will never be followed by "Wainwright."
While the "Best of Rufus" portions of the evening were electrifying, tracks from the Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis-produced "Funk This" held their own among the beloved favorites. "Will You Love Me?" took Khan deep into her low range, which is powerful and rich, although often overshadowed by her marvelous high-pitched shrieks. And the hymnlike first single, "Angel," along with the contemporary ballad "One for All Time" (which Khan said would serve as the album's second single), could be the best thing to happen to adult radio in quite some time.
-- Sarah Godfrey