Live performances return to Aretha Franklin Amphitheater


As people entered the legendary Aretha Franklin Amphitheater, formerly Chene Park on Wednesday night to see Sheila E, excitement was etched on their faces. The legendary percussionist is said to be the hall’s first headliner since September 2019.

Famous photographer Monica Morgan calls her camera her “superpower”. She was thrilled to be taking live performance photos again. Photo by Monica Morgan.

When Governor Whitmer shut down the state of Michigan to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus, live shows were the first to go. Even before a statewide tenure, private companies like the Fox Theater and the Michigan Opera Theater were canceling shows.

Over the months, it became clear that the shows at the Aretha would not return even if the venue is outside. The risk was too great. This meant returning tickets sold, canceling sponsorship deals, and canceling contracts with artists and performers.

On Wednesday July 7, 2021, the music returned.

The first act to honor the scene with the name of the Queen of Soul was Monica Blaire. A beloved soul singer, Blaire engaged the crowd with her artful vocal range and stage presence. Before the show, she told Model D how honored it was to perform. “In some ways,” she said, “this show seems sacred. “

“It is an opportunity to turn our faces in joy after all that has happened over the past year.” She added that for her, “it’s like coming back to oneself, in the most loving and authentic way I can think of. I’m grateful to see international talent and founding black-owned places being able to weather the storm and get the band back on track.I’ve been waiting for the party for over a year.

And she wasn’t the only one. Shahida Mausi, the CEO of The Right Productions, which runs Chene Park, took the stage to thank the people who supported her business during the pandemic.

The incomparable Sheila E wore a shirt belonging to Prince. The Purple Rain Tour in 1984 kicked off in Detroit on November 4, 1984. The percussionist called his post-COVID return to The Aretha a “full circle moment.” Photo by Monica Morgan.

Mausi first thanked the audience, those who were there that night and those who had tickets last season and patiently waited for refunds. She thanked her salespeople, the artists who canceled events. She thanked main sponsor Huntington Bank, who she said has supported her throughout the difficult canceled season.

She also thanked Monica Blaire for being the first artist to grace the stage after over a year, and she had a gift for the first couple to arrive that night.

In a brief statement to Model D, Mausi said, “The Aretha is delighted to be back to deliver a full season of the world’s best entertainment.” She encouraged fans to visit their social media pages to find links to purchase tickets.

The spirit of gratitude continued. Kelly Holmes, who co-hosted alongside Chris Campbell, urged audiences to stand up and applaud the music’s return. “We are blessed,” he said. “We did it, all of you… I lost… you know what I’m not even going to talk about.”

Monica Blaire, of Detroit, said her return to the stage was like “a sacred moment.” Photo by Monica Morgan.

Illustrious photographer Monica Morgan shared her images with us. She said in a statement, “COVID-19 and being in quarantine has changed our lives forever… it was great to be at the Aretha Franklin Amphitheater again, surrounded by people and doing what I love. The camera is my super power!

Legendary performer Sheila E was the first major act in the Wednesday night jazz series at Aretha. The queen of percussion gave an energizing, engaging and moving show.

Towards the end of her set, she performed “When the Saints Go Marching In”, followed by “What the World Needs Now is Love”. The energy was upbeat and uplifting. All around the room, people were kissing and smiling.

It was truly an unforgettable night.

And the best part is, hopefully, there will be a lot more.

The official website of the Aretha Franklin Amphitheater can be found here, and follow them on Instagram @thearethalive


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