It’s been almost six months since Aretha Franklin announced she was having surgery of some kind, and taking a break from performing concerts. So there she was last night, making a triumphant return to the stage at Cipriani 42nd St. The occasion was a short show for the Candie’s Foundation. Franklin, looking like a million bucks after losing around 60 or more pounds, sported a cute, short pixie haircut. She wore a dark green gown that someone in her camp said she’d bought at Saks. With her orchestra behind her, Franklin emerged on stage like a movie star. She did seven songs– “that’s all they asked for,” she told me later, she would have done more.
She started with Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher,” but was plagued by a bad microphone and the wrong mix. Her voice was so strong, though, that we could hear her just fine at quite a distance. By the time she launched into “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman,” the sound was fixed and Franklin was grinning. She was back with a vengeance and she knew it. She did “Think” and “Chain of Fools” before introducing two new songs from her new album, “A Woman Falling Out of Love.” She noted: “It’s available at Wal Mart and on walmart.com.”
Sitting down to play the piano, she exclaimed, “This dress is almost too tight to sit down. I’m not Beyonce!” When she returned to the microphone stand, Franklin joked: “That seat was hot!” She cleaned up with “Respect,” punctuating the letters in the word like never before. Later, Franklin entertained guests in her dressing room after changing into a sort of green blue metallic cocktail dress to show off her new figure. “I have five or seven pounds to go,” she said. “All I’m doing tomorrow is the treadmill.”