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Bonnie Raitt at the Auckland Town Hall

on February 5, 2004 No comments

There’s something about Bonnie. It’s not that she’s one of the best and most distinctive slide guitarists on the planet, equal parts rock’n’roll and nail-hard blues. And it’s not that her voice can airblast the ceiling of a concert hall one minute then become an intimate whisper the next.

And it’s not that she carries a great band: drummer and former Beach Boy and Rutle Ricky Fataar; her bassist for 15 years James “Hutch” Hutchinson; keyboardist Jon Cleary (who opened with his own trio and proved to be the Stevie Ray Vaughan of New Orleans funk keyboards); and guitarist George Marinelli, who is her perfect foil.

And it’s not even that she constructs a diverse and always interesting show: in this too-short but much-appreciated set she delivered roadhouse blues-rock in the manner of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, her meatier version of David Gray’s folksy Silver Lining, plenty of raunchy blues, soulful Afrobeat in Oliver Mtukudzi’s Hear Me Lord, New Orleans funk, reggae (after a forgivably faltering start), a nod to Little Feat, and a politically apt acoustic version of Randy Newman’s satirical Let’s Drop the Big One. And more.

Yes, there is something about Bonnie. She has that rare ability to command a stage yet ignore the invisible barrier between her and the audience which, let’s be frank, has come to love her. She chats with her band and those who call out requests, jokes spontaneously, and makes you feel as if she is talking to you alone.

And when she plays that blistering slide she makes grown men – bald guys who are accountants by day – howl like animals and middle-aged women feel sexy as they bask in her radiating, strutting sensuality.

First Listen: Bonnie Raitt, 'Dig In Deep'

Raitt is a performer but never let’s you forget that she is just a person too: flawed, sometimes hurt, often happy and right now damn annoyed with her country’s politics.

She’s not remote, and when she said she loved Piha, that hers was a nuclear-free stage and that she had really enjoyed her three days here you knew she wasn’t being patronising.

Raitt – singer, songwriter, guitarist, political person and woman – is the genuine article and all these things. That’s what the “something” is about Bonnie Raitt.

Source: © Copyright NZ Herald

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