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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisBelieve it or not, Hyde Park hero Chaka Khan never previously headlined the Chicago Theatre, but the ten time Grammy Award winner and 70 million album seller more than made up for that surprising scenario Saturday night. Besides blasting through a sizzling blend of Rufus and solo smashes from the 1970s through today, the "Queen of Funk" teamed with the charitable platform "Music Is My 1st Love" to benefit The Red Pump Project (a nonprofit that raises awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS on women).
The 61-year-old singer/songwriter (who just celebrated her 40th anniversary in entertainment) opened the show at downtown's ultimate historical hot spot with the pulsating beats of Prince's "I Feel For You," a smash that firmly established her as a solo artist back in the day. Throughout the next 90 minutes, the reflective set wove between her own "What Cha' Gonna Do for Me" with Rufus staples "Sweet Thing" and "Tell Me Something Good," all of which found the lady born Yvette Marie Stevens in vivacious vocal form.
When it came to the ballads, a gentle interpretation of "Love Me Still" (a somewhat forgotten gem first cast as a collaboration with Bruce Hornsby) was a true charmer, though oddly enough, the even more famous "Through The Fire" (once sampled by Kanye West) was left out all together. Nonetheless, her funky, five-piece backing band brought some extra meaty grooves to the jam "Ain't Nobody," one of two true toss-ups as her most enduring cut to date.
Running neck in neck was "I'm Every Woman," a track that found additional footing when her friend Whitney Houston took it straight up the charts, though there was no beating the original, especially in light of this particular evening's conscientious theme. In addition to reveling in the retrospective, fans can also take stock in a forthcoming album said to bear the "iKhan" banner, a fitting moniker for a star whose mark on more than four decades of music is beyond measure.
Soul, funk and R&B appreciators may also want to mark down a triple bill of The SOS Band ("Take Your Time Do It Right," "Just Be Good to Me"), Lakeside ("Fantastic Voyage," "It's All The Way Live") and Chante Moore ("Love's Taken Over") at the Governor's State University Center for Performing Arts in University Park, IL on Friday, August 29. For additional details, visit www.narskimusic.com.
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