By Doug MacCash
Blues diva Bonnie Raitt’s performance at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans on Saturday night (Nov. 5) was impeccable. Her voice was clear and penetrating, yet emotionally quavering. Her electric slide guitar was sharp yet supple, her acoustic picking and strumming were precise. And her gracious persona made the huge Italianate auditorium seem intimate.
In the course of the night, Raitt thanked dozens of fellow musicians and others for their inspiration or support. Among the mentioned were: Quint Davis, John Hiatt, Allen Toussaint, B.B. King, Little Feat, Ivan Neville, Tracy Chapman, Chaka Kahn, the bus drivers, the truck drivers, the lighting designers and the sound crew.
Speaking of the sound crew: Thanks to their nuanced approach, the listening experience Saturday was uncluttered by echo and the inherent roar of clumsy over-amplification.
Early in the show, Raitt confided to the audience that she has a birthday coming up on election day (Nov. 8) and she made her apprehensions about the outcome clear.
Politics aside, her impending 67th birthday seemed to produce a touch of wistfulness in the sublime singer. Time and again, she referenced the passing of the decades. She described herself as “a full grown dog” and thanked the audience for sticking with her since her career began in the 1970s.
Raitt noted that she hopes to continue performing for as long as possible. Her dad, Broadway star John Raitt, she said, was on stage until he was 86, as was one of her blues heroes Sippie Wallace. And “just look at Tony Bennett,” she said.
The set included several songs from her 2016 album “Dig in Deep,” which was said to be, in part, a reflection on the passing of her parents and brother. The sweet melancholy of many of her selections and comments probably struck a chord with the silver-haired folk that made up the majority of her audience.
Heaven knows, youth is glorious and superior in every way … except perhaps where concert etiquette is concerned. Raitt’s audience remained seated through most of the show, allowing fans, even those in the back of the auditorium, a clear view of the stage. When she played poppy numbers such as “Something to Talk About,” dancing spilled into the aisles. But when Raitt performed subtler songs, her audience was respectfully rapt.
At the conclusion of Raitt’s fragile ballad “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” at least one woman in the audience wept.
Source: © Copyright NOLA – The Times-Picayune