The undisputed Queen of Soul arrived onstage Saturday night at Constitution Hall in a silver, sequined gown.
“Come on D.C.!” Aretha Franklin shouted. “Hands together. We are going to have a good time tonight.”
She opened with “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher.” Followed by “Day Dreaming” and “ When I Think About You.”
On Saturday, Franklin confirmed she wrote ”Day Dreaming” about Dennis Edwards, the lead singer of the “Temptations,” telling the crowd: “This was written with a certain Temptation in mind. All the ladies who know him.”
Then she sang, “He’s the kind of guy that would say, ‘Hey baby let’s get away. Let’s go some place, huh.’ Well I don’t care. He’s the kind of guy that you give your everything. You trust your heart, share all of your love… .”
In an interview with The Washington Post on Friday, Franklin said that if she had a choice between music of the 1970s and music of the 1960s, “between the two, I would choose the ’60s. The music was better far better than the ’70s. The ’70s was more disco. Music was just better in the ’60s. It was written better and performed better. It was just better to my ears.”
When she began “Think,” her hit released in 1968, the crowd rose again to its feet. Young and old — white and black people — danced in the aisles of DAR Constitution Hall.
Franklin, 70, sashayed across the stage. She explained that she was reaching back into the songbook “to one of the gentle, giants, the Bach of Music, Mr. Curtis Mayfield.” Then she sang: “Something He Can Feel,” which was composed by Mayfield in 1976 for the movie, “Sparkle.”
“Something He Can Feel” was followed by “Don’t Play that Song.”
Her voice soared: “Darling, I love you. You know you lied, you lied, you lied. Oooh you lied to me.”
“You know how it is when a love affair is over,” Franklin explained.
Franklin explained that a couple of years ago while she was in San Diego, “I was in a concert. Someone said James Moody,” the jazz saxophonist and vocalist who died in 2010, “was in the audience. He was one of the greats of jazz. One of the icons of jazz. I said, ‘I wonder whether he would come up on stage to sing. He graciously accepted and walked up on stage with hat in hand and wore me out.”
Franklin began singing a beautiful rendition of “Moody’s Mood for Love.”
Then the Queen moved on to “Chain of Fools.” The crowd danced.
When Franklin returned from a short break, she said: “We are going to have a little church.”
Franklin sang “Amazing Grace” and did what church folks back home call the “Holy Ghost” dance, the dance church ladies do when the church music gets good.
She followed with a tribute to Whitney Houston. Franklin in Friday’s interview said that contrary to many reports, she was not Houston’s godmother. “It was like her ‘play aunt.’ ” Franklin said. “Very early on, when she came in the business, she would call me, Miss Ree. We were not related. I had a lot of respect for her. She was brought up very well. She was certainly one of the finest voices to step before a microphone.”
Onstage Saturday, Franklin told the crowd: “We look back and remember one of the finest singers that ever stepped before a microphone,” Franklin said, at the piano. “She was my Christian sister. Whenever you hear the familiar strands, remember this melody.”
A photo montage of Houston flashed as Franklin sang, “I Will Always Love You.”
“Okay are you enjoying yourselves?” Franklin asked the audience. “The more you put in it, the more you will get out.”
She introduced U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who was in the audience. Then Franklin said, “This gets even better! The first lady of the United States!” Michelle Obama, who was sitting in a tier stage left, rose to a standing ovation.
“All right,” Franklin said, waving. “What a tremendous asset she was to the president, Mrs. Michelle Obama.”
Then Franklin asked the crowd to acknowledge Marian Robinson, who was sitting next to Obama: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Let’s have an applause for her mom.”
Franklin then sang more gospel and said goodbye.
The crowd continued to cheer, waiting for more.
Franklin returned to the stage to sing “Respect.”
“I love you!” she waved. “I love you good night.”
Then as quickly as the night began, it was over. The concert hall fell silent. The Queen of Soul had left the stage.