AFTER BEING ON the road for most of the past two years, an emotional Bonnie Raitt sang her heart out for a sold-out hometown crowd Wednesday night, her first show in the Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium.
“I’m so happy to be here,” she told the audience, strutting onstage, looking fighting trim in snug-fitting jeans and a glittering, rust-colored top that matched her signature red mane with its trademark silver streak. “I have so many friends out there, and I feel really comfortable here.”
Chatty and charismatic onstage, she noted that this was the first time she’d played Marin’s largest concert hall.
“I’ve come here for a medical qigong lesson,” she joked, adding, “It’s the slowest I’ve ever moved in my whole life. But I was instantly healed.”
Between songs, a woman in the audience yelled, “We love you, Bonnie,” and seemed to be speaking for what was clearly an adoring audience of 2,000 mostly middle-aged fans.
Reveling in performing for a such a neighborly group, she dedicated songs during the evening to her celebrity pals Peter Coyote and Maria Muldaur, both in attendance.
“I haven’t seen a lot of my friends in a long time,” she said at a green room reception after the show. “It’s kind of emotional.”
Since the release of her 19th album, Grammy-winning “Slipstream,” in the spring of 2012, the rock and roll hall of famer has been touring relentlessly in the U.S. and Europe. But for a number of weeks she’s been home in Marin, taking a breather before leaving again on her current fall/winter U.S. tour, which began at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park on Oct. 4 and continues in cities she missed on last year’s tour, until the holiday season.
“It’s been nice to sleep in my own bed for a couple of nights,” she offered, casually telling the audience that she spent the day hanging out with friends, doing her laundry, packing.
“I need a wife,” she cracked. “That’s what I need, I really do.”
The night before, she took in the Mill Valley Film Festival’s West Coast premiere of “This Ain’t No Mouse Music,” a documentary about Chris Strachwitz, founder of the East Bay’s Arhoolie Records.
“It’s a masterpiece,” she enthused. “I hope you get a chance to see it.”
A single woman (she’s been divorced from actor Michael O’Keefe since 1999), she’s lived in Marin part of the year for more than a couple of decades, but she clearly feels equally at home when she’s out in the world with her longtime touring bandmates — guitarist George Marinelli, bassist Hutch Hutchinson, drummer Ricky Fataar and old friend Mike Finnigan on keyboards.
Raitt delivered an impassioned, two-hour show, drawing heavily from songs on “Slipstream,” including Randall Bramblett’s bluesy rocker “Used to Rule the World,” a sassy reggae rendition of Gerry Rafferty’s 1978 hit “Right Down the Line” and tasteful takes on Bob Dylan’s “Million Miles” and “Standing in the Doorway.”
She gave props to Marin’s Bonnie Hayes for being named head of the songwriting department at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, then launched into the Hayes’ penned “Have a Heart,” one of her greatest hits.
The winner of 10 Grammys, she remains in top form in her mid-60s, seasoned by an enduring career that began with her eponymous debut album in 1971. With her pure voice and bluesy slide guitar work, she was always a critics darling but didn’t break through commercially until she exploded worldwide with “Nick of Time,” sweeping the 1990 Grammy Awards. After 20 years of struggle, she was suddenly a superstar, and not an ungrateful one.
“I don’t take it for granted,” she said at one point Wednesday night, bringing up as her role model the professionalism of her late father, Broadway musical star John Raitt.
“He sang until he was 87 years old,” she remarked. “Every single night was as important as the one before. It didn’t matter if he was on Broadway or in Iowa. I never, ever will forget that.”
Playing acoustic guitar, she then sang an aching, tearful rendition of John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery,” dedicating it to her late mother, Marjorie, whom she credited with taking her to the March on Washington and turning her on to the civil rights and peace movements.
“No matter how many times I gave her credit or talked about her in interviews, they only told my dad’s story and mine,” she said somberly. “She was a magnificent woman, and I miss her. In the years since she passed, I want to try to make it right and thank her.”
After the deaths of her parents and brother, she took an extended hiatus to grieve and heal, finally emerging with “Slipstream,” her first album in seven years. She’s been promoting the record tirelessly ever since, grateful to still be a chart topper as she prepares to celebrate her 64th birthday in November. At one point during the show, she joked about the hormonal changes of a woman her age.
“It’s so nice to have your own climate,” she cracked, pointing out the fan (the kind that cools you off) in front of her onstage.
Opening act Marc Cohn (“Walking in Memphis”) called her “the greatest living singer we have.” For this special show, in front of people she would not want to disappoint, she came out for an encore and used her exquisite voice to hold the hall in cathedral-like silence with a fervent “I Can’t Make You Love Me” from her 1991 album “Luck of the Draw.”
Needless to say, she left the stage to a standing ovation. At a postconcert reception, she savored some final moments with friends, informing them that her brief Marin sojourn was over. The tour must go on.
“I’m leaving tonight,” she said, not unhappily. “For Chico.”
Source: © Copyright Marin Independent Journal