Chaka Khan – Live @ the N’DIGO gala

Chaka KhanChaka Khan shows she’s still ‘Every Woman’
(Chicago – June 2004)
by D. Kevin McNeir

Except for a little air in her upper-range and a few omitted notes that die-hard fans may be used to hearing from earlier recordings, Grammy-award winning Chaka Khan was still at her best as she kicked off her summer tour with a benefit show in Chicago-her home town.

Khan was the guest performer for the N’DIGO Foundation’s ninth annual gala-an organization under the umbrella of Hartman Publications. The Foundation provides financial assistance to Chicago-area high school youth who are pursuing higher education. Since its inception in 1995, the number of scholarships has increased from five to 28. And the performers have been some of the best in the business-from Ray Charles and George Benson to Natalie Cole and now, Chaka Khan.

There was a buzz of anticipation as the Foundation’s awards program came to a close and the audience prepared themselves for what would prove to be a high-energy performance by the Old School musical icon. Khan showed that she’s still comfortable singing doing pop, rhythm & blues and jazz as her band teased the audience with refrains from ‘At Midnight’ from her platinum-selling album entitled ‘Ask Rufus’ when she was still part of the Rufus family.

Performing in her traditional black and backed by four capable singers and an outstanding band, Khan serenaded and shouted with sensuality as she segued from ‘I Feel For You’ to ‘What Cha’ Gonna Do For Me’ Khan was exceptional on the latter, sharing the stage with a bass guitarist who added a riff or two reminiscent of the late, great Jimi Hendrix.

Khan then slowed it down with ‘Through the Fire,’ one of her more popular songs from the 1980s. Unfortunately, she omitted a few of those glass-shattering notes that were her trademark. But with backup singers supplying some added harmonics and an impressive bit of scatting at the end, this one was well worth the price of admission.

This writer had hoped for more from her jazz repertoire, songs like ‘And the Melody Still Lingers On (Night in Tunisia),’ ‘Them There Eyes or ‘All Of Me,’ but she did ‘say something about being in love’ with ‘My Funny Valentine.’ Here Khan showed both here young and not-so-young fans that she still has the goods to perform. Her voice was crisp and she stayed within her range-something that is still amazing.

Returning to her roots, Khan continued with her own rendition of Marvin Gaye’s classic ‘What’s Going On?’-a song that garnered the songstress her 18th Grammy nomination. With great emotion, she took her audience back to simpler days when the Funk Brothers were masterminding some of Motown’s most celebrated hits.

As expected, Khan closed her performance with what has become the emancipated woman’s theme song, ‘I’m Every Woman.’ And guess what, even brothers were on their feet for this one, singing the lead vocals and chorus like they were on stage.

Finally, with a request for an encore, Khan performed ‘At Midnight’ from her platinum-selling album Ask Rufus. She was still belting it out, after almost 90 minutes on stage. Check her out if she comes to your town-you owe it to yourself.