By Carmen Glover
While basketball lovers were glued to their television sets on Monday night to watch the UConn men’s team thrash Kentucky for the NCAA championship, PBS aired the Women of Soul special, which was taped at the White House in March to honor Women’s History Month. Those who missed the one-hour special lost out on the chance to enjoy a real treat of performances by the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, entertainer extraordinaire Patti LaBelle, Jill Scott, Melissa Etheridge, Janelle Monae, Tessanne Chin and Ariana Grande. The repeat broadcast will air on PBS on Saturday at 3:00 p.m.
The night got off to an engaging start with President Barack Obama welcoming the guests and sharing why the gathering was convened.
“This is really a good lineup and I want to thank our performers for this evening. They are fantastic,” said the President. “Soul music makes us move. It makes us feel. Tonight we are in for a healthy dose of truth from some of the finest voices there are. I can’t wait.” The excitement emanating from the President’s voice was palpable. He then introduced Patti LaBelle as “a real American treasure.”
Addressing the President and First Lady, LaBelle said. “I want to thank you for the five years you have been in this wonderful home. You have taken us somewhere we’ve never been before.” She then sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’ soaring to heights that were impressive, confident and smooth.
Jill Scott made it clear she was there to party when she sang and danced to Franklin’s hit “Rock Steady” before returning to perform her own hit “Golden.”
Franklin, the ultimate in diva-like behavior, was the only singer to perform with her own band and backup singers. All of the other performers were accompanied by the house hand. Franklin did not disappoint, belting out “Never Loved a Man,” while the President rocked back and forth to the catchy number, smiling delightedly as the Queen of Soul brought the house down in a flawless performance. Franklin ended the show with a stirring rendition of the gospel classic “Amazing Grace,” that paid homage to her roots.
But the night unquestionably belonged to Patti LaBelle who was warm in her interactions with the other singers, even joining them onstage in performing a tribute to Tina Turner while Franklin was noticeably absent.
LaBelle belted out her staple “Lady Marmalade” later in the evening, reaching notes that were as incredible in their range as they were thrilling to hear. She danced, pranced and delivered a spectacular performance that would put singers more than a third of her robust 70 years to shame.
The diminutive Monae was a ball of energy as she leapt from one end of the stage to the other while delivering the notes to Shirley Bassey’s James Bond theme song “Goldfinger” in a voice as clear as a bell. Monae later performed “Tightrope” from the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” album. She enjoyed performing and at one point she knelt on stage, directly in front of the first family, eliciting rapturous smiles and dance moves from the President and First Lady, as they rocked in their seats.
By the time Melissa Etheridge came to the stage to sing “Only One,” the guests needed no encouragement to make their appreciation known. While Chin lapsed into Jamaican patois as she gave some background about how deeply her love for music is steeped into the cultural mores from the land of her birth.
Chin sang Donna Summer’ “Last Dance” and got into the spirit by dancing to the beat as she moved easily on stage and brought the song to life a style reminiscent of Summer herself.
Grande acted every bit her age, greeting the first family with “What’s up. How y’all doing. You okay?” causing them to burst into laughter and acknowledge that yes, they were doing just fine. Grande sang “I Have Nothing,” in honor of her late childhood icon Whitney Houston.
If you are unable to catch the re-broadcast when it airs on Saturday afternoon, set your television sets to record the special. You will not be disappointed.–OnPointPress.net.