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Chaka can still do it – naturally

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Powerhouse performance: Chaka Khan had fans dancing

Chaka Khan

Fairmont Southampton

Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts

Chaka Khan proved she is every bit the powerhouse she always was, delivering an electric set spanning the decades.

She whipped her fans up into a frenzy during her impressive performance on Saturday night and, despite the seated format, everyone was soon dancing.

The sell-out show came only a day after she released her new album Hello Happiness — her first since Funk This in 2007. The album is so fresh that Chaka joked she might not remember all the lyrics.

At 65, the Queen of Funk was showing no signs of slowing down — armed with her trademark sass and killer smile, she pulled off even the most challenging of vocal feats that her eclectic repertoire demands.

Tucked into a show-stopping minidress embroidered with sparkling gold beads, Chaka marched up the centre aisle of the auditorium flanked by her entourage before bursting into This Is My Night from her 1984 album I Feel For You.

The album was produced by Arif Mardin — the late mentor to T.J. Armand, executive director of the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts, who used his connections to get her here.

The ten-times Grammy Award winner is known for covering at least seven different genres but there were certainly overtones of funk in her show — not least during her newest offering, Like Sugar.

She joined forces with Major Lazer producer Switch on the track, which fuses funk and classic dance beats. The crowd’s reaction showed that her music continues to be relevant.

But it was the classics that really got everyone going. One of the highlights was when Chaka broke into Sweet Thing, the signature song of her former band Rufus, and a large crowd of women stood up and sang it word for word.

It was a stunning performance.

The Chaka sass was in full throttle during the provocative hit Tell Me Something Good, so recognisable as the genius of its creator, Stevie Wonder. Her backing singers were fantastic and the crowd loved it.

The band also deserve credit, not least the airtight drummer and Hendrix-inspired lead guitarist, who at one point played his instrument with his teeth.

Towards the latter half of the show, Chaka suddenly left the stage in the middle of a song telling us: “I’ll be right back.”

The band improvised with an instrumental but confused audience members eventually began making their way into the reception area unsure whether it was an official break.

After about 20 minutes, Chaka was back on stage with no explanation but the show went on.

She engaged with the audience between songs, joking about how awful the weather in Bermuda is at this time of year and even having one-on-one conversations with a couple of audience members.

While most of the concert was upbeat, she did slow things down with the melancholic Love Me Still.

Chaka kept her most timeless treasures tucked up her sleeve — to the delight of the audience she chose I Feel For You and I’m Every Woman to close out the show.

There was no one more fitting to headline the festival during the year that its theme was the Empowerment of Women — Chaka Khan is not only a singer, songwriter and actress but also a fierce activist and the embodiment of women’s power.

T.J. Armand may be small in stature but he pulled off a gigantic coup landing this living legend.

It’s a shame the tickets had to be so expensive because there were probably many more who would have loved to have seen her perform on local soil.

But anyone who may be inspired to see her during her present US tour should rest assured — she can do it, naturally.

Chaka Khan (Photograph supplied)
Chaka Khan (Photograph supplied)