The first three days of this year’s Newport Folk Festival closed with an unforgettable surprise: soul and R&B legend Chaka Khan. The singer joined an ensemble cast of performers including Kam Franklin, Brandi Carlile, Adia Victoria, Joy Oladokun, Margo Price, Kyshona, Yola, and Amythyst Kiah on the festival’s main stage headlining set titled “Once and Future Sounds,” curated by Allison Russell.
Khan, in superb voice at 68, led the all-star group of performers through a two-song greatest hits mini-set, delivering jubilant renditions of “Ain’t Nobody” and “I’m Every Woman.”
Glorious huge ending! pic.twitter.com/cTXRCXFMPH
— #ArdenRon Ozer (@ronozer) July 26, 2021
The performance concluded Russell’s beautifully-structured “Once and Future Sounds” set, which also showcased the spoken word poetry of Caroline Randal Williams, transcendent guitar work from Celisse, and powerful personal testimony from Kiah in songs like “Wild Turkey.”
By the time Khan arrived at her 1978 classic “I’m Every Woman” for the set’s closing number, nearly every performer on-stage was jumping up and down in celebration.
Russell’s curated set comes just a few months after the Birds of Chicago member released her debut solo album Outside Child this spring. The singer performed a stirring rendition of the album’s “All of the Women” (featuring a tremendous verse from Nashville rapper Daisha McBride) during her set, and still has a weekday Newport performance upcoming on Tuesday.