By Aidin Vaziri
Bonnie Raitt, whose hits include “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and “Something to Talk About,” will spend most of this year away from her Marin County home, playing a mix of solo shows and stadium co-headliners with James Taylor. But the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer plans to make time for a couple of benefit concerts along the way, like the one she’s doing for the Tipping Point’s North Bay Fire Relief Fund at the Fox Theater in Oakland. The Chronicle caught her on the phone while the 68-year-old star was taking a breather in Los Angeles, where she had slipped out from tour rehearsals to sit on a bench overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Q: Were you home when the Wine Country fires happened?
A: I was there for the first four days and it was devastating. I have four friends who lost everything. With this benefit, I wanted to try to raise some funds for the more underserved communities in the North Bay that don’t have as much access to legal rights; or they’re immigrants afraid to file claims. I also want to be able to help the clinics that are dealing with the ongoing emotional trauma that people are going through. There’s a lot more support that’s going to be needed down the line.
Q: You did a stadium tour with James Taylor last year and now you’re doing it again. Did you enjoy playing in ballparks more than you expected?
A: Wrigley Field and Fenway were a real honor. Most of the shows we did last year were in sports arenas, so when we finally got outside it was like a big party. But if I even think about how many people are going to be out there, it freaks me out.
Q: It must feel good that so many people still turn out to see you.
A: Honestly, the fact that so many legacy artists are retiring or passing away, I think people know it may be an important chance to see people they have developed a longtime relationship with. I feel the same way they do. I want to get it while we’re at the top of our game. For people who love playing live as much as James and I do, that’s where the magic happens.
Q: You have been opening your set with a cover of INXS’ “Need You Tonight.” How does that go over?
A: Oh, my God. When I first started to do it, it made me shiver a little bit. It’s a pretty sexual song. When I started opening shows with it I was like, “Whoa, I’ve got to match this for the next two hours!”
Q: Has it been hard to avoid getting political onstage this year when you see so much of your work undone?
A: It’s a challenge every day to know what happened while we were asleep. You can’t even make up how absurd and painful this is. As far as I’m concerned, we have to get money out of politics — this isn’t a democracy. That’s about as far as I’ll go. A lot of people aren’t necessarily in agreement with my politics, so I don’t hit them over the head with it. I’m just really glad I have an electric guitar to turn up when I’m pissed off.
Bonnie Raitt and Her Band: 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 20. $55-$500. The Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. http://thefoxoakland.com
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