Bonnie Raitt clearly loves playing Pinewood Bowl and the 2,500 or so who made it to the Pioneers Park amphitheater Tuesday clearly love her, too.
Taking the stage at 8:15 p.m., with “Made Up Mind.” the first of a handful of songs from her new album that would turn up in the 90-minute set, Raitt then looked out at the bowl and said:
“It’s such a show for me to be in the daytime and be able to see everybody. You look great. It’s a blessing to be out in this festival-like setting again.”
So began another lovely Lincoln performance from Raitt, who cycled through her hits, played the new record and connected the audience through her music and words, spoken and lyrics.
The latter occurred touchingly when she took a seat on a stool, picked up an acoustic guitar and introduced a song “Just Like That” she’d written
with her friend John Prine — a touching story about a mother listening to her son’s transplanted heart through a man’s chest.
Then came the blues of “The Road’s My Middle Name” before she strapped on her Stratocaster and pulled the crowd out of its seat with a slide-guitar rockin’ “Something to Talk About.”
It was followed by a driving new number written to honor those who died from COVID by “Livin’ for the Ones.”
Raitt acknowledged the evening’s sultry conditions early and often.
“We came in from the dressing room, which is arctic village in there,” she said after the second song. “I’m trying to keep my ‘do together. We’re not used to this heat. We’re usually dancing around up here. But we’re going to keep it chill.”
Later she talked about pulling her bus over to get lemon soft-serve ice cream on the way into the bowl earlier in the day during soundcheck.
Among the other show’s highlights were a swinging version of John Hiatt’s “No Business” and her jerky stomp blues cover of InXS’ “Need You Tonight.” and, of course, her achingly beautiful version of “Angel from Montgomery” in honor of Prine, who wrote it.
Raitt was terrific vocally from start to finish, clear, expressive and soulful and she sure can play guitar as can her guitarist Duke Levine.
As she set up for the set closer – an insistent blues rock run on Talking Head’s “Burning Down The House, Raitt made a final reference to her return to the “beautiful” bowl.
“It’s been a pleasure coming back and playing for you. That we could reunite … It’s been a pleasure playing in this heat with you.”
The legendary Mavis Staples opened the evening with 50 minutes of gospel and soul, highlighted by a deep-hearted take on The Band’s “The Weight” in which she shared vocals with her backing singers and guitarist.
Staples, who turned 83 last month, sat down a few times, resting in the heat. But her voice was there with all its gravelly strength and she was in high spirits throughout.
The veteran of the 1960s civil rights movement continued her lifelong activism with a spirited version of “My Country,” her anthem of struggle rewarded.
But she said the struggle for the country has to continue:
“I’m not too proud right now,” Staples said. “I don’t feel too good about it. I don’t like what I’m seeing. Too many guns, nobody’s doing anything about it. I’m seeing too many babies aren’t getting enough to eat. And you’ve got one guy who’s trying to stop us from voting. You can’t stop me from voting.
“If it keeps on, I might run for president myself. Vote Mavis.”
After turning “I’ll Take You There” into a call-and-response, Staples left the stage with this:
“My family, the Staples Singers, we’ve been taking you there for 74 years and I’m not tired yet. You ain’t seen the last of me. I’ll be back.”