Concert Review: Freihofers Saratoga Jazz Festival (Day 2) @ SPAC, 06/25/2023

on June 27, 2023 No comments
By Michael Hochanadel
(edited by BPJ)

No umbrellas, no problem.

Sunday’s second half of the 46th Freihofers Saratoga Jazz Festival felt as warm-summery as Saturday felt cool-swampy, when fans dodged puddles deep enough to swim across. No, no, I’m goofing, and with relief.

Bonnie Raitt closed the festival before 8:30 p.m., the time shows once started at Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

Fans left happy, but questions lingered: “What is jazz?” “Who should play jazz festivals?” “Why can’t I shoot phone photos and videos?”

Raitt steamrolled all that with top quality, heartfelt music, demonstrating perfectly the need to invite non-jazz-purists into the fold to ensure such events continue.

Before that twilight hour rang with Raitt’s blues, rock and soul, Sunday seemed a sort of miniature of Saturday events. Sunday was nine hours of music in nine performances versus ten and half hours of music in 12 performances Saturday; and symmetrical moments emerged.

Bonnie Raitt brought maybe her best-ever band to the festival, with a strong batch of songs inspired in part by the death-by-Covid of friend and songwriting mentor John Prine. After 50 years onstage as a dedicated proponent of Black blues, R&B and folk-influenced pop, and kinfolk in the crowd, she knew what to do.

The mid-tempo rocker “Made Up Mind” opened, both her voice and slide-guitar playing impressively strong; and she stayed for a while with straight-ahead rock tunes, including new ones from 2022’s “Just Like That” album, before digging later back into blues and R&B.

Freihofers Saratoga Jazz Festival (Day 2) @ SPAC – 6/25/2023 © Rudy Lu

On tour most of a year since the Covid eclipse, her band is pros and pals: guitarist Duke Levine, keyboardist Glen Patscha, drummer Ricky Fataar and bassist Hutch Hutchinson, with an occasional offstage percussion assist.

Everything was polished and properly punchy, or soothing. Raitt concentrated more on playing lots of songs than stretching them out. Her slide guitar breaks and solos by Levine and Patscha made their point quickly; then they were on to the next.

After the contemporary “Made Up Mind” came the older “Used to Rule the World” and John Hiatt’s “No Business,” then “Blame It On Me,” her favorite from “Just Like That,” the hit “Nick of Time,” and a Bobby Rush deep blues “A Million Miles.” These were fine, but things got more serious with “Just Like That.” a Grammy Song of the Year winner inspired by Prine and telling a mother’s tale of her late son’s donated heart saving a life.

Now she was deep, and life-or-death tunes stood tall among hit crowd-pleasers, the rollicking vintage “Something to Talk About” setting up the somber, percolating new “Ones Who Didn’t Make It,” for example.

She rode the reggae bounce of “Have a Heart” with an extra fine slide solo, then made it through Prine’s heartbreaking “Angel From Montgomery,” a staple of her shows since 1971.

Unlike a night-time show, Raitt could actually see her audience, and this seemed to inspire and empower her. The skill impressed, but the feel was real, and that mattered more.

All the artists playing the main on Sunday required that fans not take phone photos or videos, prompting some grumbles on-site and online. Though I’ve photographed shows for decades myself for publications and websites, I’m with the artists here: Who wants to look out at an audience and see a sea of cell phones blocking faces?

As to “What’s jazz?” and “Who should play jazz festivals?” my short answer is “Anybody who’s good enough.” This festival flew by on the wings of top talent. My faves: Emmet Cohen, Cory Wong, Hiromi’s Sonicwonder, Samara Joy, Jupiter Okwess, and Bonnie Raitt. Yeah, Bonnie Raitt.

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Source: © Copyright Nippertown

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Live review: Bonnie Raitt at Bridgewater Hall

on June 16, 2023 No comments
By Jay Darcy

Fresh off her shock win at the Grammys, Bonnie Raitt visited the Bridgewater Hall as part of her UK tour

Perhaps the most memorable moment of the Grammys 2023 was the shock Song of the Year win. The nominees included Adele, Beyoncé, DJ Khaled, Gayle, Harry Styles, Kendrick Lamar, Lizzo, Steve Lacy, and Tayor Swift – but the award went to Bonnie Raitt, with the little-known album track ‘Just Like That’. This prompted a bit of a backlash, with the Daily Mail scandalously referring to Bonnie, a 13 x Grammy winner and 30 x nominee, as an “unknown blues singer”.

This backlash, from people who had not even listened to the stunning song, was actually brilliant promo for Bonnie – because those who did not know who she was now knew!

Fresh off the back of her successful night at the Grammys, where she won three awards, Bonnie has returned to the UK to promote her new album, Just Like That…

Gareth Dunlop

Bonnie’s opening act was Northern Irish singer-songwriter Gareth Dunlop. Whilst his music is not my cup of tea, I can appreciate his exceptional songwriting; it’s no surprise his songs have been featured in numerous films, television series, and commercials.

He opened his small set with ‘My Kind of Paradise’ before telling us, candidly, that he often struggles with social interactions and meaningful conversations, and his next song, ‘Can’t Stand Myself’, expressed those feelings beautifully.

Whilst much of his music is slow and moody, his third song, ‘Go Down Swinging’, is an upbeat tribute to his daughter.

Gareth told us that he lived in Nashville for around a decade, mainly writing songs for other artists and television series, including Lucifer, which prompted about three “woo”s – which Gareth was humoured by. Age-wise, most of the people in the audience were anywhere between middle-aged and prehistoric, and Lucifer is very much a millennial/Gen Z-kinda show!

Gareth sang the song he wrote for the show: the smoky ‘Devil in You’.

Before singing his final song – ‘Train Driver’, which I think he said is a tribute to his son – he told us that he had listened to a compilation as a kid and fell in love with Bonnie Raitt’s ‘Too Long at the Fair’ – so, clearly, opening for Bonnie was not merely a huge opportunity but also a dream come true.

Bonnie Raitt

I won’t lie, I was not all that familiar with Bonnie’s catalogue. I have loved ‘Something to Talk About’ for awhile – it’s one of my “liked” songs on Spotify – and, of course, ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ is a musical masterpiece. But the main reason I wanted to see Bonnie was because I have a goal to see (and, ideally, review) as many female icons as possible, especially older ones who might not be touring for much longer – and Bonnie, believe it or not, is 73!

Not only does Bonnie look amazing but her voice has aged like fine wine; it’s gotten richer and warmer, which works wonderfully for her moody music.

Bonnie sang a real mixture of music: her hits, songs from the new album, and even some lesser-known non-single tracks from old albums. I’d love to know her thought process for constructing this setlist; she’s such a meticulous, skilled songwriter that, surely, the choice of songs, and the placing of them, is all very intentional.

Awhile into the show, Bonnie sang the gut-wrenching ‘Just Like That’, which she told us is inspired by a story she saw about a woman visiting the man whose life had been saved with her late son’s heart. The man had asked the woman if she wanted to lean on his chest and hear her son’s heartbeat – and, oh my, I’m tearing up just writing this.

Bonnie’s soulful delivery makes the rich lyrics even more emotional. This beautiful song deserves its two Grammys, period.

After this, Bonnie wisely sang the upbeat ‘Something to Talk About’, her biggest chart hit in her native USA. As aforementioned, I love this song and have listened to it many times, so it was this performance that allowed me to fully appreciate the changes in Bonnie’s voice.

The audience were quite fond of Bonnie’s cover of INX‘s ‘Need You Tonight’, which she had previously recorded for an album, but it was the penultimate song of the main set, ‘Angel From Montgomery’, that had the audience on fire.

Originally recorded by John Prine, Bonnie’s version, albeit just an album track, is the best-known version of the song. Previously, Bonnie said this song “probably has meant more to my fans and my body of work than any other song” – and that was evident at the gig.

Bonnie ended the main set with ‘Love Sneakin’ up on You’, her final US hit and her only Canadian number one. The North Americans have given Bonnie a lot more love than us Brits – obviously, Americana and blues music are much more popular over there – but Bonnie has a lot of proud fans over here, with her Manchester gig almost sold out.

Bonnie opened the encore with her signature song, ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’. I’ve said this in many of  my live reviews: there is nothing quite like seeing an artist sing their signature song live – and this was no different. Bonnie’s aged voice added a sense of sorrow and suffering to the song.

Whilst ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ was not a hit in the UK, the late George Michael covered the song, and his version reached number three – so most people are familiar with the splendid song, even if they are unfamiliar with the original version.

Bonnie again followed a tragic tale with a heartwarming story. “So glad to sing about a love that works out for a change,” she said, before singing ‘Not the Only One’.

She ended the gig with the groovy ‘Never Make Your Move Too Soon’, originally recorded by B.B. King and a track on Bonnie’s first live album.

An audience member down front asked Bonnie if we can stand for this one, and she said of course. The entire audience took to their feet and bopped along to the song.

Most of Bonnie’s music is slow and soothing so it was great to end the night with one we could dance to; it was a celebratory end to the concert.

Whilst I knew Bonnie was a remarkable singer-songwriter, I had not realised just how good she still sounded (indeed, exactly a year prior, I had seen Diana Ross, whose voice has, sadly, not aged too well). I also did not know just how entertaining and funny she was; she’s incredibly likeable.

When I’m unfamiliar with an artist’s catalogue, I sometimes get a little bored and find myself waiting for the few songs I do know, but, just like that, Bonnie had me captivated from the very beginning.

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Source: © Copyright The Mancunion

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Live Report: Bonnie Raitt brings her ‘Just Like That’ tour to Dublin’s Vicar Street

on June 12, 2023 No comments
Jess Murray

Having won three GRAMMYs at the 65th Annual Awards in February, Bonnie Raitt shows her Irish fans she’s still on top.

“It’s fun being 73, isn’t it?” As quick-witted and charismatic as ever, blues legend Bonnie Raitt neither looks nor acts her age tonight at her sold-out Vicar Street show.

The California native is genuinely happy to be back in front of an Irish audience having last played the RDS with Paul Simon and James Taylor in July 2018. There are plenty of “We love you Bonnie” audience shout-outs throughout the night and Raitt does her fair share of shout-outs to one particular audience member, her long-time friend, Paul Brady. She dedicates her 1991 hit ‘Something to Talk About’ to Paul and his wife: “People who have been married as long as Paul and Mary – this is going out to all your frisky folks out there!”

While some of her best-loved songs are covers, Bonnie Raitt isn’t just a talented blues guitarist and singer. Earlier this year she beat pop mega-stars Adele, Harry Styles, Lizzo, Taylor Swift and Beyonce at the Grammys, winning Song Of The Year for her song poignant track, Just Like That.

The ten-time Grammy winner proves her talent is far from waning. She treats us to a heartfelt rendition of the Grammy-winning song, which was initially inspired by a woman who donated her deceased child’s organs and goes on to meet the man who received his heart. It’s a powerful song that quickly strikes a chord with her Vicar Street audience. Raitt has also stated that the song was inspired by the death of her longtime friend John Prine, who passed away in 2020 after complications from COVID-19.

Born in 1949 to a Quaker family in Burbank, California, Rait moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts for college for its hotbed of political, folk and blues music. Known for her lifelong commitment to social activism, Raitt has long been involved with the environmental movement, even dedicating her 1972 album Give It Up to the people of North Vietnam.

Raitt is a fierce performer, full of conviction. She wryly pokes fun at her homeland saying things like, “We’ll try stop our madness at our side of the pond..” And she sarcastically dedicates Randall Bramblett’s song ‘Used to Rule the World’ to the United States: “Remember when we used to rule the world,” she asks. “Never…”

I’ve always enjoyed Bonnie’s Raitt as an artist but tonight, I want to be her buddy. She is so effortlessly cool and full of fun. She moves from the guitar over to the keys for her incredibly moving song, ‘Nick Of Time’. Written about her observations about aging, the song has some poignant lyrics like, “I see my folks are getting on, And I watch their bodies change, I know they see the same in me, And it makes us both feel strange”.

Her Dublin audience is overjoyed by the performance. It’s a talent in itself to take on another artist’s song and make it your own. Bonnie Raitt is a master of this, performing two of her most well-known songs – John Prine’s ‘Angel from Montgomery’ and ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ written by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin.

Tonight she is backed by her supremely talented band featuring Hutch Hutchinson on bass, Ricky Fataar on drums as well as the wonderful Glenn Patscha on keys and Duke Levine on guitar. Raitt and her band perform wonderful covers of ‘Burning Down the House’ by Talking Heads followed by a seductive cover of INXS’s ‘Need You Tonight’ – they are simply on fire.

Raitt mentions her visit to the National Gallery in Dublin the day before and quips: “The only thing missing was Paul Brady’s portrait!” As she introduces her performance of Paul Brady’s 1983 song ‘Not The Only One‘, Bonnie Raitt expresses her love for Paul (who happens to be sitting beside me) admitting that, “it’s good to be nervous”.

Raitt then treats us to a sublime rendition of B.B. King’s ‘Never Make Your Move Too Soon.’ Tuning up her signature slide guitar she playfully says, “Oh I love stratocasters!” I’m sure they love her back, as do we.

Long live the red-headed queen of blues, Ms. Bonnie Raitt.

Source: © Copyright Hot Press

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