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Aretha: Queen of Soul still reigns

Aretha Franklin performs at Jones Beach. (July 27,

Aretha Franklin performs at Jones Beach. (July 27, 2011) Credit: Bruce Gilbert

Aretha Franklin didn't wait long to show that she's back at the top of her game.

Two songs into her 90-minute set and she was playfully vamping through "A Natural Woman," reaching for bigger notes than usual and skillfully nailing each one of them.

With each thrilling run, she put her rough 2010, when she suffered a health scare that required surgery for an undisclosed condition, further behind her. And after Wednesday night's show at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, one of her first concerts since returning to the stage after her illness and her first appearance at the venue, it's clear that The Queen of Soul's reign will continue for quite a while.

Dressed in a floor-length, gold-accented white gown that camouflaged an injured foot well, Ms. Franklin declared early on that she was ready to party, which she energetically did in a variety of styles.

Whether it was the R&B she helped pioneer in "Chain of Fools" and "Think," the sleek disco of "Jump to It," the lilting Brazilian twist on "Day Dreaming" or the gospel reworking she gave "Bridge Over Troubled Water," she was in the zone.

Even when she rolled out her current single, the title track from her new album "A Woman Falling Out of Love," she had the crowd behind her.

However, it turned out that her turn into jazz for "Moody's Mood for Love" proved the most impressive, as she brilliantly leaped from her lowest squonk to gracefully turning delicate notes near the top of her register.

It was the kind of performance which she somehow nearly matched by a potent gospel reading of "One Night With the King," that cemented her reputation as a living legend and a singular talent.

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