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Concert review: Bonnie Raitt digs in deep at Heinz Hall

on March 24, 2016 No comments

By Scott Mervis / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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.”

Bonnie Raitt at Heinz Hall with bassist Hutch Hutchinson and drummer Ricky Fataar. © John Heller/Post-Gazette
Bonnie Raitt at Heinz Hall with bassist Hutch Hutchinson and drummer Ricky Fataar © John Heller/Post-Gazette

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

I Knew


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

Love Letter

Your Sweet and Shiny Eyes

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
WYEP 91.3
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We are rocked to the core to hear of the passing of our dear friend, bandmate and musical genius, Mike Finnigan. He fought his long illness with the same fearlessness and ferocity he brought to every part of his life. Our deepest condolences go out to Candy, Kelly, Bridget and all his family.

Mike was one of the most powerful, virtuosic soul/gospel/blues singers and Hammond B3 players you’ll ever be blessed to hear. Respected and emulated by musicians the world over, his legacy of staggering
performances across his 60+ years career will stand the test of time. He stopped our show nearly every night. There was simply no one like him.

He was whipsmart, incredibly articulate and funny as hell. He was as devoted to his beloved family and friends as he was to helping so many struggling to get and stay sober. He and his wife Candy were instrumental in my own sobriety and I will be forever grateful.

Rest in peace, dear Mike. I know you’ll be shaking that Heavenly Choir to new heights as only you can do.

Here’s a clip from our 2013 Slipstream tour, where he tore up the place every night with Ray Charles’ iconic “I’ve Got News for You.”
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