I first heard Bonnie Raitt’s velvety falsetto on my mom’s worn Magnavox boombox when I was 10 years old. I was immediately captivated by “Give It Up or Let Me Go,” the opening track off Raitt’s 1972 sophomore album Give It Up. Her twangy guitar and genre-melding style made me an immediate fan. (It helped, too, that she was a fellow redhead.) Her music quickly became pivotal to the soundtrack of my adolescent years.
When it was announced Raitt and soul-music legend Mavis Staples were stopping by Woodinville’s Chateau Ste. Michelle as part of Raitt’s “Just Like That…” tour, I couldn’t pass up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these two legends take the same stage.
It was a humid August evening — the kind normally best spent convening around an air conditioner — but hundreds of people, like me, knew this experience was worth the sweat.
Staples, who took the stage at 7 p.m. sharp, is 83, but her recognizably rich and husky voice remains just as powerful as it was decades earlier. The Staple Singers’ frontwoman performed old favorites like “I’m Just Another Soldier” and “Handwriting On The Wall” but kept audiences on their toes with inventive, unexpected covers of Funkadelic’s “Can You Get To That” and Talking Heads’ “Slippery People” — the latter of which was a special tribute to David Byrne.
Staples unsurprisingly closed her set with “I’ll Take You There,” the Staple Singers’ most enduring hit. It might have been her umpteenth time playing it, but the performance was so spirited that even the mouth-breathing, obliviously chatty corporate types seated next to me couldn’t help but sit up and pay attention.
After a short transition period, Raitt appeared on stage in a parakeet-green blouse and her scorching red hair curled perfectly to accentuate her trademark bride of Frankenstein-esque shock of white bangs. She opened with “Made Up Mind,” the lead single off her first new album in six years, Just Like That… I was immediately struck by how little Raitt’s voice, put through 50 years of touring, had changed as she deftly navigated “Made Up Mind”’s fluttering falsettos. Raitt continued with other new-album highlights like “Waitin’ for You to Blow” — a song she described as like having a conversation with the devil on your shoulder — “Blame it On Me,” “Livin’ for the Ones,” “Just Like That,” and a few selects from her decades-running discography.
Raitt’s crescendoing setlist took a somber turn when it came time for her renowned cover of the late John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery.” Before the song began, she shared her memories of Prine, who died in 2020, and reiterated her everlasting love for the singer-songwriter before dedicating the song to him. I didn’t notice any dry eyes within my 30-foot radius, and I’d like to think that was a testament to the power of Raitt’s timeless talent more than the contributions of the plentiful wine refills the audience enjoyed throughout the night.
Raitt closed with her career-marking hits “Something to Talk About” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” The audience seemed to know most, if not all the words, to Raitt’s songs throughout the night, but it was these two Luck of the Draw tracks that clearly remain the fondest in most people’s hearts. As I watched this age-spanning crowd belt along with Raitt, I reflected on how many generations she’s impacted, and how, while some music may go out of style, hers never has.