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November 30, 1998 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1998-11-30

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8A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, November 30, 1998

Franklin sings into the divine


By Garth Hotel
Daily Arts Writer
People go to church on holidays such as Christmas and Easter,
but I never realized that some went on Thanksgiving as well.
Church is, after all, a large group of well-dressed people in a beau-
tiful building who convene to sing praises and to worship. That's
precisely what went down last weekend at Detroit's Orchestra Hall,
where a packed audience recognized and worshiped the magnifi-
cence of the closest thing we have to a goddess here on Earth:
Aretha Franklin.
In, case you have been away for a long time, Franklin was and
remains perhaps the most outstanding vocalist around, and she
once again proved what she no longer needs to keep proving: She
has a voice that can fill an auditorium with such beauty and power

Orchestra Hall
nov. 27, 1998
ents. The group,

that it can justly be called "divine."
And the Detroit Symphony Orchestra was
there, too.
Although Franklin has previously appeared
with the Boston Symphony, the Milwaukee
Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra and
the National Symphony, this marked her first
appearance with the DSO, and, hence, the
first time singing with a symphony orchestra
in her hometown of Detroit.
The DSO isn't a group that's used to being
relegated to mere background music, but
when Aretha takes the stage that's all that it
could hope to contribute.
Fortunately for the DSO, Franklin did not
appear until after an intermission, giving
them time to showcase its own formidable tal-
led by Resident Conductor Leslie B. Dunner,

a smashing collection of horns to keep up. The DSA All-Stars
earned a standing ovation, not simply because the group is com-
posed entirely of graduating students and alumni of the school, but
rather because they were a group of incredibly talented musicians
who proved that no matter how old you are, you can still kick ass.
Following the Aretha-free first act, the crowd was ready for the
Queen to take the stage. And took the stage she did, with enough
flair to put czars to shame. The woman knows how to make an
entrance..While photographs of her were projected on a screen, the
orchestra, which now included members of her own entourage,
blasted Strauss's "Also Sprach Zarathustra," followed up by an
excerpt from "Chariots of Fire" and an arrangement of "Jesus
Christ Superstar." Granted, there's no subtlety here. But this is
Aretha. After this trilogy of deification, Franklin was ready to
The entire literature of praise and expectation that accompanied
this woman was generously supported. Her exquisite ability to
make anything that comes out of her, speech or song, sound bril-
liantly musical, the very resonance of her voice and the power and
beauty that she gives to everything she does with it, all carried
through as she performed "Rock Steady" and "Angel," joined by a
troupe of her own dancers.
Another key term in the praises of Franklin is versatility, and she
embodied that description as she segued into the energetic "Think,"
where more than a handful of her fans echoed her on the chorus of
One of her most treasured and enjoyable songs, "Respect," fol-
lowed. Maybe all she's asking for is respect, but she sure deserves
a hell of a lot more than that. She deserves idolization.
Midway through the number, she exited the stage and let the
deserving band shine. You could give Aretha a K-mart karaoke
machine and she would blow the roof off the arena, so it's truly
remarkable to see her with a band as unstoppably groovy as the one
she has. Featuring her son Teddy on guitar, her band managed to
musically obliterate the DSO and almost came close to matching
the power that Franklin herself brought to the stage.
One quickly gets a sense of why she is so loved and has been for
so long. She possesses a huge vocal range, yet doesn't feel the need
to exploit it unnecessarily (did somebody say Mariah Carey?). And
she can take a song, no matter how sappy, and ensure that it won't
turn into an annoyingly cheesy, empty-headed love ballad (did
somebody say Celine Dion?)
She proved that to us with a song from the film "Waiting to
Exhale," which in many of her contemporaries' hands would have
been nothing more that soulless make-out music, but Franklin
made it divine, stopping the show at nearly every other verse.

Courtesy o f rsta
Aretha Franklin enchanted her Thanksgiving crowd at Orchestra Hail
in Detroit this past Thursday.
To remind us that the DSO was still there, Franklin again amazed
the audience with her startling versatility by having the orchestra
join her in performing Puccini's "Vissi d'arte" from "Tosca," in a
repeat of her performance at the Grammy Awards where she filled
in at a moment's notice for an ailing Luciano Pavarotti. Franklin
oozes soul, and her voice captures that soul in everything from vac-
uous '50s tunes to opera.
Figuring that she had nothing left to conquer in the field of vocal
performance, Franklin sat at the piano and accompanied herself in
an almost unbearably emotional "Bridge Over Troubled Water,"
which featured a fantastically funky coda where she led her orches-
tra to places neither Paul nor Art ever dreamed the song could go.
Franklin ended regulation time with a rousing version of her
"Freeway of Love," amalgamating itself into a rocking gospel cho-
rus that again saw the crowd come to its feet. She left the stage for
a gloriously huge ovation, milking it until returning to perform the
title track from her latest album "A Rose is Still a Rose."
She closed the breathtaking show with a sweet and uncharacter-
istically subtle performance of the Sinatra hit "I'll Be Seeing You."
After graciously thanking the DSO (for listening to her, I suppose),
Franklin exited for the final time, having left a mark on the music
fans in the audience that will not be forgotten.
As we dined on turkey and potatoes with our families this holi-
day weekend and reminded ourselves what we are thankful for,
hopefully that list included our being in the presence of a truly
timeless institution like the divine Aretha Franklin.

opened the wholly American program with a American piece,
Leonard Bernstein's overture to "Candide." That, along with a
movement from William Grant Still's "Afro-American Symphony,"
were the only proper orchestral works. Following this were three
pop orchestral arrangements of the works of Duke Ellington (a pre-
view of next year's celebration of the 100th anniversary of the com-
poser's birth). Ralph Hermann's "Ellington Fantasy" nicely includ-
ed the standards "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" and "Take
the A Train."
The first half of the show, which ought to have been the DSO's,
was stolen away from the orchestra as a group of youngsters from
the Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts (DSA)
gave a dynamically intense version of Dizzy Gillespie's proto-
funky "Manteca," featuring an astonishing percussion section with


Finally, a store to satisfy your pocket fetish.
Announcing the opening of the Levi's* Online Store.


aids in
dead bets
Dead Pool: Stretch
& Wilk's Official
Annual Guide
Mike "Stretch" Gelfand
and Mike Wilkinson
Formaldehyde Press
People die every day, and
according to death experts
Gelfand and Wikinson, at a rate
of more than a hundred per sec-
Nobody loses much sleep over
it, unless you happen to personal-
ly know the deceased. Unless the
dead person in question is a
celebrity - then people all over
the world unite and mourn as one.
Headlines lament (or trumpet -
sometimes it's hard to tell which)
the passing of the elite.
Everybody sheds a tear over a
Princess Diana or a Frank Sinatra.
Everybody except the dead
If Di or Old Blue Eyes himself
is on a pooler's list, a cheer is
more likely to be sounded than a
An underground craze for
many years, dead pools are final-
ly coming into their own as a pop
culture pastime thanks to the
Internet and a spiffy new hand-
book written by a couple of death
prognostication experts.
"Dead Pool: Stretch & Wilk's
Official Annual Guide 1999
Edition" offers up guidelines for
dead pools, hot tips on who in the
public eye is most likely to expire
and a host of dead pool anecdotes
- yes, dead pools can bring fam-
ilies together and tear friendships
apart, all over a famous corpse.
Like your typical NCAA bas-
ketball betting pool where you
pick certain teams from the pool
of 64, a dead pool involves choos-
ing wisely.
Obviously, there's a much larg-
er element of chance at work in a
dead pool: Who can reliably pre-
dict when a stray blank will fell
an up and coming actor (Brandon
Lee) or a politician will ski into a
tree (Sonny Bono)? That's what
dead pools are all about: Morbid
Dead pools usually utilize a
system much like a yearly sports
draft, in which on a particular day,
pool members draft various per-
sonalities from the limelight and
hope that they end up in quick-
Noticeably ailing celebs such
as Bob Hope or aging hipsters
such as Strom Thurmond tend to
go in the first round, while long
shots such as Dom DeLuise (as
the guide says, "one word: fat")
can go deep in the tenth round.
Impending death indicators
such as rehab stints or a penchant
for motorcycles can land an oth-
erwise outwardly healthy guy
such as Gerard Depardieu much
higher in the draft than he would
have gone before his Harley
wipeout last year.
The 1999 guide, written by
Mike "Stretch" Gelfand and Mike

Wilkinson, is a slim text written
in a personal, easy-to-read style.
There's no great prose here, but
there are plenty of great stories.
It does get bogged down from
time to time in dead pool jargon,
rules and semantics, but as
Stretch and Wilk attest, it's all
there to you and your friends run
your own dead pools fatally
smooth. The two authors prove
themselves as masters of the mor-
bid, reeling off negative facts
about the rich and famous in
grand style, even if they do hap-
pen to be hoping for a grand mal
Picking dead people requires a
lot of forethought and knowl-
edge, almost as much as a life
insurance agent. Health habits,
marital situation, drug additions,
vices, lifestyle - (01' Dirty
Bastard, as a rapper with connec-
tions to gangland and the whole
East-West rivalry, is so high-risk
that he makes Stretch's "drop
dead" top ten picks) all factor in
to the likelihood of a pick kick-
ing the bucket during the dead
"Dead Pool" is, at the very least
a fun, quick read. At most, it will







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