Respect: Annie Crummer, Esther Stephens, Bella Kalolo, Aaradhna – Spiegeltent March 22, 2017


Four of New Zealand’s premier soul singers take on Aretha’s canon and generate plenty of respect.

Its gotta be a daunting task…paying tribute to The Queen Of Soul, Aretha Franklin, by performing her songs…at least she wasn’t in the audience watching.

But plenty of Auckland music fans were, as Annie Crummer, Esther Stephens, Bella Kalolo and Aaradhna sang together, and separately, a range of Aretha’s tunes, from hits like Chain Of Fools and Day Dreaming to lesser-known numbers such as Something He Can Feel and Take A Look. Each of the four even stuck in one of their own songs for good measure.

This first or three performance at the Spiegeltent was an early starter…7:00pm and so I unfortunately missed the first 15 minutes or so. But when I arrived it was clear that all four women were in fine voice as they launched into Chain Of Fools.

Annie Crummer seemed to be the ringleader, acting as host, joking with the crowd. But if there was a crowd favourite, it was probably Aaradhna. Her own Brown Girl was also the best received original…fitting in perfectly with Aretha’s tunes.

The Auckland Jazz Orchestra, with a large horn section, provided the musical accompaniment. Their’s was a tough job as those classic Aretha records are defined as much by the music as Franklin’s voice.

The band seems to struggle a bit early on, not quite finding the right groove during Rock Steady, but by the time they got to Respect and encore Natural Woman, they were funky-as.

While I appreciated the fact that the vocalists sang a few of their own numbers, it meant that there were quite a few Aretha classics left out in the cold…I Never Loved A Man, Do Right Woman, Baby I Love You, Since You’ve Been Gone…are just a few of solid gems I would have loved to have heard.

That said, they did surprise folks with a few rarities…Take A Look is from her pre-Atlantic days and Something He Can Feel is also a lesser-known nugget.

All-in-all a fine time was had by all, and by the end everyone was up and dancing to Respect. Sisters were indeed doing it for themselves…and everyone else!

Marty Duda

Respect set list:

(Missed first few songs but probably included The House That Jack Built, You’re All I Need To Get By, Think, Evil Gal Blues)

  1. Take A Look
  2. Chain Of Fools
  3. Come Back Home (Bella Kalolo original)
  4. Tell Me ( Esther Stephens original)
  5. Rock Steady
  6. Something HE Can Feel
  7. Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)
  8. Day Dreaming
  9. Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby)
  10. Without The Paper (Bella Kalolo original)
  11. Language (Annie Crummer original)
  12. Brown Girl (Aaradhna original)
  13. Respect
  14. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman