Rosemary Welsch interviews Bonnie Raitt
Before the show Bonnie sat down with WYEP’s Rosemary Welsch to talk about her career, influences, and her new album “Dig in Deep.”
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“A lot of people have been dropping,” Bonnie Raitt said Wednesday night. “Grateful to still be here — glad you are, too.”
The singer-guitarist and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is not only still here, she seems to be thriving at 66. In a royal blue shirt and tight jeans, the signature shock of white in her red hair, she took the Heinz Hall stage and grabbed a Strat with as much swagger as she ever had.
The Burbank, Calif., native is in the midst of a career resurgence, having come off of a seven-year recording hiatus with two acclaimed albums since 2012, the latest being the just-released “Dig in Deep.” She jumped right into that one, opening with her reinvention of the INXS dance hit “Need You Tonight” into a Stonesy blues-rocker complete with the first of many steamy bottleneck guitar solos.
Having done this now for more than 40 years, sharing stages with Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker and B.B. King, Ms. Raitt is like royalty on stage. After the first song, she said to someone in the first row, “Sorry. I just flung that pick at you” — and he dug around to give it back! “That’s all right,” she said, coolly. “I have more.”
She dug in deep with six songs from the new album, including the Los Lobos classic “Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes,” the “four-on-the-floor” political stomper “The Comin’ Round is Going Through” she wrote with guitarist George Marinelli and the tearful Bonnie Bishop ballad “Undone.” “That’s my whole gig,” she said after that one. “Tearing myself up and recovering.”
Sitting down with an acoustic for her cover of the bluesy “Round and Round,” she told us she “fell hard in love” with John Hammond when she heard him in the ’60s and wanted to marry him as “John Lennon was clearly out of the picture.” She even reapplied her lipstick “in case [Hammond] shows up.”
Of course, Raitt has some good, longtime musicians around her in Marinelli, with whom she squared off numerous times, bassist James “Hutch” Hutchinson, drummer Ricky Fataar and keyboardist Mike Finnigan, who got the honor of paying tribute to B.B. King with a gritty vocal and Hammond B3 solo on “Don’t Answer the Door.”
“Yeah, baby, get worked up. We deserve it,” she said to the crowd after one of the jams.
Part of what made Raitt’s career was putting a smooth gloss on the blues in the late ‘80s with the Grammy-winning “Nick of Time” and “Luck of the Draw” (which she attributed to the nice tour buses in the back), so this is more of a smooth, polished band than a sizzling one — although that might be different around midnight in a corner bar.
She sent her lovely cover of John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” out to the victims of the Belgium terror attack and wooed the crowd with other favorites like “Something to Talk About,” “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and “Love Letter.”
At one point, she said the constant parade of guitars on stage was due to the different tunings she uses. “As I get older, my voice gets lower,” she said, adding “gravity is a bitch.”
For the most part, it’s treating her well.
Opener California Honeydrops was a sweet little Mardi Gras-style blues-swing band from the sidewalks of Oakland, Calif., led by Lech Wierzynski, from Poland, who sang, played guitar, trumpet and tambourine, all the while looking like David Lee Roth in disguise. They covered Wilson Pickett and Ray Charles and tossed in a few originals that swept us back to happy, funky times.
Bonnie Raitt Setlist
Need You Tonight (INXS cover)
Used to Rule the World
Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes
Right Down the Line (Gerry Rafferty cover)
Round and Round (J.B. Lenoir cover)
I Feel the Same
Help Me Lord
Something to Talk About
The Comin’ Round is Going Through
Angel From Montgomery (John Prine cover)
Don’t Answer the Door (B.B. King cover) (Lead vocal by Mike Finnigan)
Gypsy in Me
Love Sneakin’ Up on You
What You’re Doin’ to Me
I Can’t Make You Love Me
Your Sweet and Shiny Eyes
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