Aretha Franklin

The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, July 15

That voice. Powerful and passionate, it remains one of the great forces of nature, as expansive as it is expressive. Despite health issues in recent years, the 70-year-old Queen of Soul showed why Rolling Stone named her the “greatest singer of all time,” displaying a range and command that can still send shivers down your spine.

Supported firmly by a 20-piece band that included 10 horn players, three backup singers and her son Teddy on guitar, Franklin appeared fit as she opened with the Jackie Wilson classic “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher.”

From there, Franklin concentrated on the ’60s hits that propelled her to superstar status. “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” sent the crowd into delighted sequels, and she reciprocated with a hair-raising vocal workout during an extended coda. She then shifted into high gear for up-tempo favorites “Think,” “The House That Jack Built” and a sultry rendition of “I Never Loved a Man (The Way That I Loved You)” before taking a short breather.

Asking, “Where are all the party people at?” as she returned to the stage, Franklin shook things up with “Chain of Fools” before slowing things down. She moved to the piano for “I Will Always Love You” as images of Whitney Houston were shown on the video monitors before she looked back on her own life and career during a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Franklin remained at the piano as she played boogie-woogie and wailed appreciation for her doctors, seemingly growing stronger in the process and bringing her back to her gospel roots for Beverly Crawford’s “It’s About Time for a Miracle.” She fittingly ended the 90-minute show with “Respect,” joined onstage by showgirls as she promised to return soon to Las Vegas. After this performance, it is a return that should be eagerly anticipated. Long live the Queen! ★★★★☆

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The Sound of Sondheim

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