Concerts

8 Great Moments From Bonnie Raitt’s Steamy Summer Solstice Return to New York City at a New Peak in Her Six-Decade Career
"I love coming back to the Beacon," declared Raitt, opening a two-night stand at the Manhattan theater, touring behind her new charttopping album `Just Like That...'

on June 22, 2022 No comments
by Thom Duffy

On the evening of the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, Bonnie Raitt opened a two-night stand at New York’s Beacon Theatre Tuesday (June 21) with a performance packed with its own superlatives. It was the most funky, fierce, fun and heartfelt show you could ask for — from an artist who has just reached a new pinnacle in her six-decade career, with the April release of her most recent album, Just Like That….

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Like the blues artists who became her lifelong inspiration, Raitt offered a set of songs that celebrated love, romantic and sexual; challenged death and the passage of time; and exuded resilience and joy. It is no wonder that she is revered by her fans, emulated by younger artists, like Brandi Carlile, and embraced by veterans, like Mavis Staples, with whom she has shared dates on this tour.

Here are eight great moments from Raitt’s return to New York City.

The causes come first

“It’s activists I’m singing for — that’s my job,” Raitt told Billboard during her 2019 tour. Before a single note sounded Tuesday, fans in the theater lobby encountered organizers from the local chapter of the Sierra Club, the environmental organization with its roots in Raitt’s home state of California. They gathered signatures calling for greater action by New York State to fight climate change. Their presence was fitting. Raitt has credited her lifelong environmental activism, in part, to childhood summers she spent at a sleep-away camp in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, during the years when her father, actor John Raitt, was performing on Broadway.

A triumphant opening set

On this tour booked by Raitt’s representatives at the Creative Artists Agency, the opening artists include Staples, Marc Cohn and, for recent dates, Lucinda Williams, who is Raitt’s spiritual sister in the blues. At the Beacon, Williams’ band Buick 6 gave full bore backing to her vocals, which sounded as compelling as ever — despite the stroke Williams suffered in November 2020. The stroke has taken away her ability to play the guitar, for now, she told the crowd. “But that’s going to come back,” she declared, concluding her powerful set to an emotional, extended, standing ovation.

A magnificent red-haired presence

“I love coming back to the Beacon,” declared Raitt, as she took the stage with her five piece band to open with “Made Up Mind,” the lead single from Just Like That…, followed by “Waitin’ For You to Blow,” also from the new album that “we’re all really proud of,” said Raitt.  The 72-year-old singer looked simply magnificent, with her trademark cascade of red hair, fronted by a white forelock, wearing a luminous blue shirt and black jeans. “All of us who are still out on the road… we stopped trashing ourselves in our 30s, just about,” Raitt told Billboard earlier this year when she was named the Icon Award honoree at Billboard’s 2022 Women in Music event.  “You can’t keep up this pace if you don’t do yoga or hike or get some exercise.”

Those who bring the funk

“All right, no more Mrs. Nice Guy,” quipped Raitt as she and the band powered into John Hiatt’s “No Business,” which she recorded on her 1991 album Luck of the Draw. Raitt’s signature sound is a mix of her bluesy vocals, her stinging slide guitar and the deep grooves of her stellar backing band. She took a moment early in the show to introduce her two new recruits —guitarist Duke Levine, who has backed Peter Wolf among many others, and keyboardist Glenn Patscha, whose B3 organ playing highlighted several songs — as well as her longtime colleagues, guitarist George Marinelli and “one of the baddest rhythm sections in the world,” bassist James “Hutch” Hutchinson and drummer Ricky Fataar. In front of Fataar, the drum riser was draped with the blue and gold Ukrainian flag. “That’s to remind us not to forget,” said Raitt.

“Scared to run out of time”

Raitt sat beside Patscha to play the lead electric piano on “Nick of Time,” the title song from her massively successful 1989 breakthrough album, which led her to win three Grammy Awards (including album of the year) in 1990. “It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years,” said Raitt. With the passage of time and the loss of loved ones, the lyrics she wrote and sang three decades ago were even more poignant: “Life gets mighty precious, when there’s less of it to waste.”

Empathy as deep as the groove

Raitt is not a prolific songwriter, but as evidenced by “Nick of Time,” when she does compose a song, it really counts. She absorbed the songwriting technique of creating, then deeply empathizing with characters in her song from her dear friend, the late John Prine — whose “unimaginable” loss was the greatest heartache of the pandemic for her, she told the crowd. Raitt credited Prine as she took up her acoustic guitar to perform “Just Like That…,” the title song of her album. It is a richly detailed lyric of a heartbroken mother who has lost her son — then meets the man who received the son’s heart in a transplant. “I lay my head upon his chest and I was with my boy again,” she sang. Prine would have been proud.

The pandemic’s shadow

The emotional toll of the pandemic sounded like a resonating chord through Raitt’s set, but often in counterpoint. Her new song, “Livin’ For the Ones,” co-written with Marinelli, was a rave up, a throw down and a shout out from a survivor:

“Livin’ for the onеs who didn’t make it

Cut down through no fault of their own

Just keep ’em in mind, all the chances denied

If you ever start to bitch and moan.”

“The healing power of music”

Prine’s classic “Angel From Montgomery” was his enduring gift to Raitt, which she has repaid by performing it as she did Tuesday night — with such emotion it was as if she were singing it for the first time. Raitt is a masterful interpreter of others’ compositions, as she proved once more in the closing songs of the show: a sensual drive through “Need You Tonight” from INXS; a fiery rendition of the Talking Heads classic “Burning Down The House” by David Byrne; and then a pair of songs she’d long since made her own — a soft torch-song take on “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” originally co-written by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin,  and the upbeat show-closing “Not the Only One,” from Irish singer/songwriter Paul Brady.

The common thread throughout Tuesday night was the artistry of this beloved musician who had returned to celebrate life in this moment with her longtime fans and friends.

“The healing power of music is an amazing thing,” said Raitt. “To have that experience with you again means more than I could ever say.”


Source: © Copyright Billboard

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At Leader Bank Pavilion, Bonnie Raitt’s excellence is no surprise

on June 18, 2022 No comments
By Stuart Munro

Bonnie Raitt is nothing if not generous, and during her 90 minutes onstage at Leader Bank Pavilion Friday night, that characteristic showed up again and again. She made sure the audience knew who was playing with her by introducing her band (including Boston’s own guitar master Duke Levine — ”hometown team!,” Raitt exclaimed) after the second song instead of toward the show’s end. She gave shout-outs by name to some of her longtime Boston friends and to former Globe music critic Steve Morse. And she paid tribute to musical contemporaries, particularly to John Prine (“I miss him every day”) before playing a hushed version of the Prine song she has made her own, “Angel from Montgomery.”

As usual, she also gave flashes of her characteristic outspokenness and compassion. She made sure to point out the Ukrainian flag displayed onstage and went on to characterize Vladimir Putin with a choice epithet and to remark that what he was inflicting on Ukraine had a level of cruelty and barbarism that she’d never seen before.

And, as usual, she offered a set that didn’t veer radically from her wont. She is touring behind her latest album, “Just Like That . . . ,” so she gave a good sampling of the record, leading things off with “Made Up Mind” and then the plenty funky anthropomorphization of addiction, “Waitin’ for You to Blow.” The title track, which she sat down and took to acoustic guitar to play, was a beautiful musical display of her compassion. “Livin’ for the Ones,” her memorial to pandemic losses, had a touch of early Bonnie and rocked as hard as anything she’s ever done, while the soulful “Blame It on Me” indicated that the ravages of time have not visited themselves upon the places she is able to take her powerful voice.

Alongside the new was the tried-and-true: “Angel from Montgomery,” “Something to Talk About,” the reggae-tinted “Have a Heart,” break-out song “Nick of Time,” and “No Business,” which gave the evening’s first taste of Raitt’s singular bottleneck whine.

There were a couple of forays off the beaten track, notably for “Back Around,” her cowrite with Malian griot Habib Koité, which she called a “concoction” of Malian blues and John Lee Hooker; she played it on resonator guitar, paired with Levine’s acoustic, to marvelous effect. But by and large, this was a familiar performance, and it showed Raitt still doing what she does best.

The effects of the stroke that opener Lucinda Williams suffered in November 2020 were clearly evident during her time onstage (and she talked about them), but what was also evident was that she has overcome whatever effects it had on her singing voice, which seemed stronger than ever. A simmering, extended take on her “Are You Down” was a highlight of her hour-long set.


Source: © Copyright The Boston Globe

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Review: Bonnie Raitt reconnects with her Philly fan base at the Mann

on June 16, 2022 No comments
by Dan DeLuca

The ‘Just Like That… Tour’ brought Philadelphia favorite Raitt to town behind her first album since 2016, and Lucinda Williams performed here for the first time since suffering a stroke in 2020.

The Bonnie Raitt and Lucinda Williams double bill at the Mann Center Wednesday spotlighted two women making music steeped in the blues who continue to create at a high level decades into careers of remarkable duration.

Raitt was the big draw, and for good reason. Her excellent, emotionally wrenching new album, Just Like That… is her first in six years. And the 72-year-old singer and slide guitarist extraordinaire’s special relationship with Philadelphia audiences reaches back long before 1989′s Nick of Time turned her into a superstar.

Raitt lived here in the late 1960s, when she played clubs like the Second Fret in Center City and learned from blues greats like Skip James and Mississippi John Hurt.

Her 90-minute set accompanied by highly accomplished longtime associates like drummer Ricky Fataar and bassist James “Hutch” Hutchinson — all of whom were introduced twice by Raitt, one of the world’s most gracious bandleaders — was a Philly love fest.

Bonnie Raitt performs “No Business” from her Luck of the Draw album during her “Just Like That… Tour 2022” stop at the Mann Center in Phila., Pa. on June 15, 2022. Bassist James “Hutch” Hutchinson is on the right. © ELIZABETH ROBERTSON /Staff Photographer

Early on, before a swaggering “No Business” from 1991′s Luck of the Draw that included a shout-out to the song’s writer, John Hiatt, Raitt said being at the Mann “feels like home.” She credited the Philly soul groove of the Nick of Time title track with changing her life.

And toward the end of the evening, after a beautifully rendered version of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery,” she called her relationship with fans “sacred” going back all the way to shows she played in Pennypack Park in the ‘60s.

(For the record, it was the second time Pennypack Park shows of yore were mentioned from the Mann stage in the last month. When Northeast Philly native Donna Rose Haim joined her daughter on stage, she mentioned seeing Hall & Oates there.)

Bonnie Raitt performs “No Business” from her Luck of the Draw album during her “Just Like That… Tour 2022” stop at the Mann Center in Phila., Pa. on June 15, 2022. © ELIZABETH ROBERTSON /Staff Photographer

For an artist with such a formidable catalog, Raitt put plenty of focus on her fine new material, playing fully half of the rock-solid and worldly wise Just Like That ….

Much of that was moving, including “Livin’ For The Ones,” a “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”-ish rocker written with George Marinelli, who, along with Duke Levine, is one of the band’s two sterling lead guitarists. That is, besides Raitt, who played precise, stinging, casually masterful slide guitar all night long.

The song mourned friends and loved ones lost, “not just to COVID,” Raitt said, but also chronological contemporaries that have died. It did so, however, by carrying on in celebration of their spirit, “livin’ for the ones who didn’t make it.”

Bonnie Raitt introduces the musicians in her band during her “Just Like That… Tour 2022” stop at the Mann Center in Phila., Pa. on June 15, 2022. © ELIZABETH ROBERTSON /Staff Photographer

More powerful still was the title song of Just Like That …., a Raitt composition partly inspired by Prine and based on a story in a TV news report about a woman’s first meeting with a man who received a transplanted heart from her late son.

Raitt delivered the song with forthright, fully engaged compassion and a tender ache that made the moment in the song when the woman hears her son’s heart beating in another man’s chest spring to life.

Like all the ballads Raitt sang, Mike Reid’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” was also particularly good.

Williams’ opening hour-long set was her first area performance since the 69-year-old masterful storytelling songwriter suffered a stroke in November of 2020. A roadie walked her out on stage — and walked her off, after she closed with a blistering “Joy.” She did not play guitar at all.

But otherwise, her performance was unaffected. She fronted a terrific five-piece band that featured Stuart Mathis on guitar and Butch Norton on drums.

Special guest Lucinda Williams sings during the opening set prior to Bonnie Raitt taking the stage for her “Just Like That… Tour 2022” stop at the Mann Center in Phila., Pa. on June 15, 2022.
© ELIZABETH ROBERTSON /Staff Photographer

Like Raitt, she drew from the blues and other roots music idioms, but their approaches widely differ. Whereas Raitt’s ensemble is pristine, Williams’ band plays loose and dirty, leaning into country and causing a commotion well-suited to the hurt heard in the singer’s gloriously frayed voice.

Williams’ songs play like a travelogue of heartache, rambling around the American South. On Wednesday, she took the audience along to New Orleans in the swaying “Crescent City” (a new addition to the set that seemed to surprise the band).

And she delighted in the reciting of evocative place names in “Lake Charles” and “Drunken Angel,” two songs from her 1998 masterpiece Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.

The song most recently recorded by Williams in her set was also the oldest written: The reworked version of “You Can’t Rule Me,” a composition by the great Delta blues woman Memphis Minnie that dates to the 1930s and is the lead track on Williams’ fired-up 2020 album Good Souls Better Angels.

“You Can’t Rule Me” works as both a song of feminist empowerment and anti-authoritarian defiance. Its title was emblazoned on T-shirts for sale at Williams’ merch stand.

And it was also the second Memphis Minnie song sung in three days at the Mann. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss did “When the Levee Breaks,” the MM original that Plant’s band Led Zeppelin took to the bank, on Sunday. Long live Memphis Minnie!

A note about mobile phone policy during Raitt’s set. Photography was not permitted, and that warning was noted for the (vast minority) of people who held paper tickets. You could also learn it by scrolling all the way down on the concert’s page on the Mann website and clicking on “More info.”

But that messaging was not clearly delivered to the people in the seats, who have grown accustomed to to taking pictures and shooting video as they wish at the Mann and other venues.

That might be aggravating to other concertgoers and performers, but music fans have been taught that they’re allowed to do it. On Wednesday, there was no public address announcement that this show would be any different.

As a result, on Wednesday, security at the Mann were tasked with prowling aisles with flashlights, looking for concertgoers who dared to even take phones out of their pockets, much less hold them up to take a picture. It was overzealous, to say the least. If you want people to follow the rules, you need to tell them what they are.


Source: © Copyright The Philadelphia Inquirer

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