The Essence Music Festival 2012 made a soulful finale in New Orleans on Sunday (July 8th 2012) during the three day event. Preceding music royalty the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin and Queen of Funk Chaka Khan were spectacular performances from contemporary gospel singer Kirk Franklin, 2004 'American Idol' winner Fantasia Barrino and Grammy winning soul star Anthony Hamilton.
Kirk Franklin received immense support during his energetic set with hits such as 'I Smile' and 'Imagine Me' being sung back by the audience. He complained a few times about his hour set being shortened to 30 minutes; a feeling that was shared by fans particularly when he began to play a selection of song snippets on a keyboard. Hamilton equally never failed to impress festival goers. Armed with a tambourine and one hell of a vocal range, he raised the roof with his 'Prayin' For You'.
There was no doubt in anyone's mind, however, that the highlight of the show was Aretha Franklin and her unpredictable 90 minute set. Opening with a remarkable rendition of the Jackie Wilson number '(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher' and following with hits such as 'You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman', Franklin blew away soul fans and was presented with three awards mid-set. However, in spite of promising an encore with 'Respect', fans were left disappointed as she left the stage at the end of her set. Chaka Khan made her appearance well into the night (around 1am) due to the show's late-running but, despite a diminishing audience by that time, still managed a few fantastic belters such as 'I Feel for You' and 'Sweet Thing'.