Detroit concert honors Aretha Franklin: ‘Aretha is looking down smiling’

Tyler Perry conveyed the hometown love at a Thursday tribute concert celebrating the legendary Aretha Franklin.

“There’s no place in the world that knows how to send somebody home like Detroit, Michigan,” Perry told a rollicking crowd at the city’s Chene Park. “Aretha is looking down smiling.”

The film director was one of many prominent guests on a celebratory night on Detroit’s riverfront, as the Queen of Soul, who grew up in the city and called it home, was honored with a warm and vivid musical tribute. Detroit singers and dancers were showcased in an event beamed to viewers around the world via an online stream.

It was a gorgeous summer night on the eve of Franklin’s funeral, and the casual, comfy atmosphere enhanced the event’s community, family feel.

R&B great Aretha Franklin, the forever reigning Queen of Soul, seen here performing in 2017, has died at her home in Detroit at age 76 of pancreatic cancer, her niece, Sabrina Owens, confirmed to The Detroit Free Press on Aug. 16, 2018. Dimitrios Kambouris, Getty Images
Fans on hand, many of them sporting Aretha T-shirts and buttons, were the lucky 6,000: Tickets for the free concert had been snatched up in minutes when they were released on Monday.

Chene Park operator Shahida Mausi called the evening a chance “to pay tribute as a people.”

Delays at the entry gates meant a half-empty amphitheater as the show kicked a half-hour behind schedule, but the venue ultimately filled up.

The show, quickly organized by the singer’s family after her Aug. 16 death, was a journey through the many musical shades of Franklin. Rod Dixon’s performance of the aria “Nessun Dorma” was followed by segments revisiting Franklin’s forays into jazz, blues and pop standards.

An Aretha Franklin fan celebrates during a Detroit tribute concert Thursday that honored the Queen of Soul.
An Aretha Franklin fan celebrates during a Detroit tribute concert Thursday that honored the Queen of Soul. (Photo: Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press)

Dancers from Lisa McCall’s company performed a soulful interpretive number set to Franklin’s recording of “Mary Don’t You Weep.”

Performances were solid across the board, but the show picked up life as it proceeded, including a hot section of Aretha soul classics from homegrown singers such as Tasha Page-Lockhart (“I Never Loved a Man”) and Cherri Black (“Natural Woman”).

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