by Jenny Block
The scene reads a bit like a fantasy that nearly every Bonnie Raitt fan has dreamt up — a small, intimate venue, where every seat is an amazing one. Bonnie Raitt and two stellar musicians take the stage with a guitar, a bass and a keyboard.
That was exactly the setting on Sunday night. And to make the pot even sweeter, the venue was on Holland America Cruise Line’s ms Ryndam as part of Olivia Travel’s Thanksgiving cruise.
“That is a magnificent sound,” Raitt said as she took to the stage, referring to the roaring applause and cheering. “Thank you so much for bringing us to your embarking party! I am friends with so many people who started out Olivia Records, including Cris Williamson. So it’s great to be here with her.”
She opened the show with “Don’t your Advertise Your Man,” changing the words to “woman” and “she” throughout the song. And in true Olivia style, the audience hooted and hollered and told Raitt how incredible she looks. And she does.
As the keyboardist jammed, Raitt said, “That’s what I’m talking about. This is a tough business to be in and I’m so grateful for my fans. This next one is by a little upstart named Bob Dylan.”
Her guitar playing could make a grown woman cry. It always could, and it still does.
“I’m going to sing this for my friend Cris Williamson. I’m so used to being with my band. This sounds so quiet,” Raitt joked before playing “Louise.”
Raitt’s voice is as rich and heartbreaking as ever. “Just listen up, baby,” Raitt said as she sat at the keyboard. “I’m going to show you how it’s done.”
Raitt was dressed all in black save for some blue rhinestone flashy arrows on her shoulder and hip, pointing curiously downward. Her red hair was wild as always with her classic white streaks. She is a knockout by any count.
“It’s a miracle any of us are still here,” said Raitt.
It was like having a concert in your very own living room concert with Raitt talking to her crew and adjusting the sound and instruments this way and that.
She plays “Nick of Time” and then teases the crowd, “Restraint is over-rated.” The crowd whistles and cheers, especially as she then begins to play, “Something to Talk About.”
“That’s the first time I’ve ever sung that without a full band,” Raitt mused. No full band required. Raitt is the kind of giant performer in soul, spirit and talent, then anything beyond her voice is just icing.
Raitt just got more and more comfortable as the show went on, even teasing, “I’m getting moist, I can say that. I feel really safe here. Which leads me into a wonderful introduction of a friend of mine. The great Cris Williamson.”
Williamson joins Raitt onstage, clearly nervous with the honor.
“If I didn’t have a cold, I’d be making out with her right now,” Raitt said about Williamson. “I’ll be thinking about you all rolling around on the seas tonight.”
The two perform “Angel From Montgomery” and it was one of those moments of music magic. It was downright amazing to see two such legends onstage together, both clearly honored and humbled and blessed to be singing with each other.
“The one and only Cris Williamson, my dear sister,” said Raitt. They hugged and whispered and exchanged kisses, and the power of women literally filled the room.
“Wow. That was pretty special,” Raitt said before teasing us that we were on the Love Boat. “I was just thinking about how much fun it would be to get away with so much on a cruise!” Audience members called out, inviting her to join them and she laughed and smiled right along.
Raitt dipped into “Thing Called Love” and dancing ensued. She started to make that electric guitar really sing and the ladies of Olivia went wild as she danced, posed and played, and the whistling and hooting went on and on. It’s clear that she is the perfect kick-off for what’s ahead for the next seven days.
“Thank you so much,” Raitt said as waved and left the stage. But before they even have the stage reset, she’s back at it.
“I’m going to put lipstick on for this song. I learned that from Cher. For those who are recovering from heartache, enjoy those Mexican breezes,” she said. “And for the rest of you, go get some!”
“I Can’t Make You Love Me,” Raitt sung as she left the stage for the last time. Founder and owner of Olivia Travel, Judy Dlugacz took the stage, shaking her head, clearly in awe of what everyone there has just witnessed.
“I just have to say, that was a dream of a lifetime,” Dlugacz shared. Indeed. A powerful statement from a lesbian icon who has made the dream of a lifetime come true for so many musicians and lesbians for whom “feeling free” would otherwise be just a dream…
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