Concerts

Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples bring joy to Madison in the nick of time

on July 27, 2022 No comments
By Rob Thomas

Treasure the legends.

At first I wasn’t planning to go see Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples at Overture Hall on Tuesday night. I’ve seen both of them before, didn’t really know their new albums, it was a Tuesday night. The usual excuses.

But then those videos of Joni Mitchell singing at the Newport Folk Festival started circulating Monday morning. Mitchell suffered a brain aneurysm in 2015, and I assumed I’d never hear her sing again, let alone sing so beautifully.

It was a reminder to treasure the legends while they’re still with us. There’s no particular reason to think Raitt, 72, or Staples, 83, won’t still be around for a while to come (“This won’t be the last you hear from me,” Staples expressly said at the end of her opening set. “I’ll be back.”) But, especially after going without live music for a long stretch recently, you don’t want to be the one who missed your last chance at a transcendent musical moment because it was a Tuesday night, right?

Mavis Staples performs at Overture Center in Madison while on tour with Bonnie Raitt – July 26, 2022 © Ruthie Hauge

The Overture show provided many such moments, with both artists still working at the height of their powers as performers. Staples, a gospel and blues icon, took the stage with what can only be described as swagger, shimmying and belting out both classics (“I’ll Take You There”) and strong recent material. “Loosen your seatbelts,” she exhorted the audience. “You need to get loose like a bowl of Jell-O.”

Backed by a tight band in steel gray suits, Staples captivated the crowd whether she was doing a gospel rave-up like “Hand Writing on the Wall” or an act of consolation and empathy like the stirring “You’re Not Alone.” She marshaled her energy wisely, taking breaks on a stool and sipping tea during guitar solos, and kidded herself when she momentarily forgot which song to do next. “That’s why I have these youngsters on stage with me, to tell me what I’m good for.”

Bonnie Raitt performs at Overture Center in Madison while on tour with Mavis Staples - July 26, 2022
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Mavis Staples performs at Overture Center in Madison while on tour with Bonnie Raitt - July 26, 2022
Bonnie Raitt performs at Overture Center in Madison while on tour with Mavis Staples - July 26, 2022

Staples’ sees performing music as an act of kindness and fellowship, and her joyful spirit was irresistible. That generosity of spirit carried over when Raitt took the stage later, brimming with happiness at being able to play anywhere, but especially in Madison.

She told the crowd that she enjoyed getting away from the “bigger cities with the big reviewers” (ouch, Bonnie) and playing a place like Madison, where it felt like she was among friends. That was literally true, as she shouted out old compatriots like Madison jazz great Ben Sidran and Milwaukee roots icon Paul Cebar in the audience.

Bonnie Raitt performs at Overture Center in Madison while on tour with Mavis Staples – July 26, 2022 © Ruthie Hauge

The magic of a Raitt concert is how she chats and jokes with an audience between songs, like we all have our feet up at the lake house together, then dive so deep into the emotion of a song like “Nick of Time” or “I Can’t Make You Love Me” that you wonder how she’s ever emerge.

To the pantheon of great Raitt songs she added a few new ones from her 2022 album “Just Like That” (no relation to the “Sex and the City” reboot). They included the aching title track and “Livin’ For the Ones,” a timely midtempo rocker about dealing with survivor’s guilt.

But the showstopper, as always, was Raitt’s cover of John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery.” It’s a song she’s performed for nearly a half a century, but only now has to do in Prine’s absence (the singer-songwriter died from COVID in 2021). That loss added an extra weight to Raitt’s evocation of a lonely old woman. As the crowd burst from their seats at the end of the song, Raitt stood there, head bowed, eyes closed, as if willing Prine to feel their love through her. It was, yes, a transcendent moment.

The only disappointment of the night was that Staples and Raitt, who have been friends since they worked on a Pops Staples solo album decades ago, never took the stage together. But, after seeing two legends in fine form separately, the only proper emotion was gratitude.


Source: © Copyright The Cap Times

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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….

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.

Bonnie Raitt Just Like That… Tour 2022 at The Beacon Theatre NY June 2022

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.”

Bonnie Raitt at the Beacon Theatre New York City June 2022 © Paige Schector

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.

Bonnie Raitt at The Beacon Theatre, NY June 2022 © Beacon Theatre

“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.

Bonnie Raitt at the Beacon Theatre, New York City – June 22, 2022 © dianzoz (Instagram)

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.”

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Bonnie Raitt and Lucinda Williams – Just Like That… Tour – June 2022

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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