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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Bonnie Raitt’s radiance and Lucinda Williams’ determination make for a durable double bill
A review of a durable double bill of Bonnie Raitt and special guest Lucinda Williams, live at the Tennessee Theater in Knoxville, Tennessee, May 29, 2022.

on June 2, 2022 No comments
by Lee Zimmerman

Bonnie Raitt and special guest Lucinda Williams

Live at the Tennessee Theater in Knoxville, Tennessee, May 29, 2022

Knoxville Tennessee Theater Sunday, May 29th

Given the fact that any chance to see Lucinda Williams or Bonnie Raitt individually makes for an enticing opportunity, having these two legendary women on the same bill adds up to nothing less than a compelling concert that ought not be missed.

Considering the remarkable resumes each individual holds each on her own, that pronouncement proved true when Raitt and Williams teamed up for a double bill and sold out show at Knoxville’s historic Tennessee Theater on Sunday, May 29th.

Sadly, Williams’ portion of the evening seemed somewhat shaky. Having suffered a stroke in 2020, that was understandable, but watching her being helped on and offstage, made her unfortunate predicament appear all the more tragic. Once at the microphone, she barely moved, other than to simply sway with the music. Happily, she had a capable backing band that was able to carry things with an ideal advantage, a fact made evident by the opening offering “Can’t Let Go.” Nevertheless, given Williams’ low-key countenance, much of the exuberance that might have been there otherwise came across as simply stifled. Her song “Big Black Train,” which focuses on her battle with depression, simply underscored the sobriety.

Of course, it wasn’t that she repressed her delivery by design. A story about singing one of her songs at a karaoke bar made for a particularly humorous aside. Likewise, when she gave homage Raitt as her tour mate (“I’m real happy we were able to do this show together. She’s inspired me as an artist. She’s something else.”), it was that sweeter sentiment that prevailed.

Nevertheless, it was Raitt’s obvious radiance that dominated the evening. That, of course, is hardly surprising, considering the fact that she boasts a recording career that encompasses 50 years and a list of honors that includes practically every award imaginable. That strength and stamina is borne out by her stunning new album, Just Like That, and a backing band that helps her live up to her legacy. Comprised of Duke Levine on guitar and backing vocals, James “Hutch” Hutchinson on bass, drummer Ricky Fataar, and “newcomer” Glenn Patscha on keyboards, it underscored the largess that her legacy deserves. With a set of songs that featured any number of highlights past and present, Raitt’s verve and versatility was on display throughout.

That said, an honest expression of emotion was also evident as the evening progressed. Several songs were shared with a sentiment that was neither contrived nor milked for any added effect. Present circumstances — the twin tragedies of covid and gun violence— made one of the newer songs, “Livin’ for the Ones,” appear all the more poignant.

So too, it’s a mark of maturity that Raitt’s material resonates so well. She referred to her early fear of getting older, and ridiculed it in retrospect, making it clear that she would never want to be 40 again.

Of course that’s hardly a surprise considering that Raitt has always drawn from an age-old regimen, much of which was borne from the blues. When she sings “Angel from Montgomery,” it resonates with a particular poignancy. Now covering it in the wake of her friend John Prine’s passing, its sadder sentiments naturally rise to the fore. She could easily transition into the old woman who’s described in the song — with flies in her kitchen and nothing to do all day — were she not the relentless road warrior she remains today.

Other factors figured into her performance as well. The recent horror of the Robb Elementary school massacre in Texas and the scourge of the pandemic went unsaid, but it was obvious that both hung like a pall over the proceedings regardless. As a result, the sincerity of the sentiment she expressed couldn’t be denied. Yet, at the same time, Raitt remains cooly confident by virtue of both her prominence and presence. Her sturdy vocals, nimble slide guitar work and even a brief turn on piano continue to serve the songs well, and given the choice of material — a selection of standards that included “I Can’t Make You Love Me,”“Nick of Time” and “Something To Think About,” a number of tracks from the new album (“When We Say Goodnight,” “Blame It On Me,” “Love So Strong,” “Made Up My Mind”) and even some surprises such as John Lee Hooker’s “Black Cloud” and Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” — very few fans could have hoped for any more.

Even now, at the tender age of 72, Raitt still rules. This particular performance proved that and more.

Look for an in-depth Bonnie Raitt interview in the June/July 2022 issue of Goldmine!

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

Source: © Copyright Goldmine Magazine and Rock and Roll Globe


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Ryman Auditorium Designated a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Landmark
A multi-year partnership between the Ryman Auditorium and the Rock Hall was also announced, including a daytime tour exhibit.

on May 27, 2022 No comments
By Jessica Nicholson

Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, now in its 130th year, is one of country music’s most revered performance spaces. But on Thursday (May 26), the Ryman was honored for its impact on rock ‘n’ roll, when the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame designated the Ryman as an official Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Landmark.

Take Me To Church: The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, opened in May of 1892 as a religious tabernacle.

Since the first Ryman concert, featuring the Theodore Thomas Orchestra, was held on May 4, 1892, numerous entertainers, musicians and speakers have taken the stage at the Ryman, such as magician Harry Houdini, actor Charlie Chaplin, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and musicians including Johnny Cash (who also filmed his television series, The Johnny Cash Show, at the Ryman from 1969-71), Harry Styles, Wu-Tang Clan (who in 2019 became the first hip-hop group to headline a show at the Ryman), Elvis, B.B. King and more.

During a ceremony held at the Ryman, Mark Fioravanti (president of Ryman Hospitality Properties), Greg Harris (president/CEO of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame), Nashville Mayor John Cooper and band Old Dominion gathered to unveil a historic marker to commemorate the milestone.

The Ryman joins 11 other rock ‘n’ roll landmarks throughout the country, including the Austin City Limits studio, King Records, Surf Ballroom, Whisky a Go Go and others.

“It’s spiritual, and it’s one of the reasons she’s called the Mother Church. Like any good mother, she commands respect and makes you feel at home. As Music City and Country Music continue to expand around her, she remains the center of the family,” Old Dominion singer Matthew Ramsey said in a statement. “She’s a beacon and a bucket list experience for us all, creators and fans alike.”

A multi-year partnership between the Ryman Auditorium and the Rock Hall was also announced, including a daytime tour exhibit slated to open at the Ryman later this year, highlighting the more than 100 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees who have performed at the Ryman over the decades.

“The Ryman is one of the most storied music venues in the world. With an unmatched role in popularizing country music — one of the pillars of rock & roll — its legendary stage has hosted performances by a staggering number of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductees and continues to do so today,” added Harris via a statement. “We recognize the significance of Ryman Auditorium and are thrilled to designate this iconic venue as a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Landmark.”

There are 351 members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and one of those members, Bonnie Raitt, performed at the Ryman on Thursday evening and paid tribute to the Ryman’s contributions to the history of rock ‘n’ roll music.

Bonnie Raitt - Ryman Auditorium - Nashville, TN  May 26, 2022
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Bonnie Raitt - Ryman Auditorium - Nashville, TN  May 26, 2022
Bonnie Raitt - Ryman Auditorium - Nashville, TN  May 26, 2022

“The Ryman has played an important role not only in the history of Nashville, but in country music and rock & roll as well,” Raitt said via a statement. “This stage holds a special place in my heart as I’m able to perform live with many of the incredible Nashville songwriters in the audience whose work has enriched my life and music. I’m honored to help pay tribute to of one of America’s great rock & roll venues.”

Source: © Copyright Billboard


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