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Harvey Wasserman : Bonnie Raitt Lights Up the World

Bonnie has balanced an astonishing musical range with a message and a way of carrying herself that are firmly rooted in her Quaker heritage.

on September 18, 2012 No comments

By Harvey Wasserman | The Rag Blog | September 18, 2012

Adversity can debilitate and defeat a lesser soul. But for those with the inner strength to make the climb, new heights can beckon.

Along the way — especially for a musician — it helps to have an other-worldly talent, a gift that combines decades of hard work with those inexplicable powers that come from the slipstream of the spirit.

A combination like that can light up the world, especially at jam-packed concerts that become joyful communions.

Now on the second leg of an epic U.S. tour — to be followed in Asia and Europe — Bonnie Raitt has taken it to a new level. Reading through the show-by-show reviews of her performances is like being witness to an ecstatic coronation.

Bonnie’s well-deserved joyride comes after a long ordeal of personal loss. Her parents, brother, and a close friend all passed in scary succession. She has also set sail with her own Redwing Records label.

None of which have shaken her political convictions or willingness to act on them (by way of disclosure, I’ve worked with Bonnie since 1978 and edit the website for NukeFree.org, whose core she comprises with Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, and benefit producer Tom Campbell).

Bonnie’s Slipstream has the trappings of an album made by someone with a transcendent talent doing exactly what she wants — and making it work. The opening song — with which she opened concerts I saw in Indianapolis and near Dayton — is Randall Bramblett’s searing “Used to Rule the World,” an admonition to egos and empires about the immutable laws of karma:

Dr. Feelgood
Sitting on a park bench
Can I get a witness?

For all these decades, through a score of albums, nine Grammys, a slot at the Rock Hall, appearances with Leno-Letterman-Ellen-Colbert, Bonnie has balanced an astonishing musical range with a message and a way of carrying herself that are firmly rooted in her Quaker heritage. A mainstay of the No Nukes movement for more than 30 years, she is not shy.

Last week, while receiving a lifetime achievement award at the Americana Music Festival in Nashville, she told a standing-room-only crowd that this year’s election had become an “auction. The efforts that are going on in our country to actively discourage people from voting and to put up roadblocks to people getting registered to vote” are among “the saddest threats to our democracy to come along in a long time.”

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Live Report: No Nukes Benefit

on September 26, 1997 No comments

Warner Theatre, Washington, D.C., Sept. 24, 1997

by Rolling Stone

Eighteen years have passed since Bonnie Raitt joined Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, and other musical luminaries at the legendary “No Nukes” concert at Madison Square Garden. And while many of her way-back-when peers who also performed at that show have since suffered artistic or commercial setbacks — see Jackson Browne, Carly Simon, the Doobie Brothers — the red-haired roots-rock diva has demanded that Father Time treat her right.

In what was billed as the largest anti-nuclear concert since then, Raitt and the cause-obsessed Indigo Girls journeyed to the nation’s capital to protest the burial of nuclear waste on Native American land. The crowd was also treated to several surprises — a weathered-looking Browne kicked off the evening with an impromptu, three-song set and pop-folksinger Beth Nielsen Chapman hopped onstage for what seemed like every other song — but the evening’s most satisfying moments came when Raitt curled her whiskey-n-smoke-solid voice around one of her trademark slide-guitar licks.

In a daring, potentially disastrous move, Raitt opened her portion of the show with an a cappella version of Chapman’s new “Color of Roses.” “It’s gonna take a lot of ovaries for me to sing this in front of the woman who wrote it,” Raitt laughed nervously. “But Beth, I love you.” Raitt treated the dirge-like song with solemn respect, conveying more emotion at 48 than she could have at 30.

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As the crowd erupted — some even stood for a shrieking ovation — Raitt invited her three-man backing band (drums, bass, piano) onstage, strapped on a guitar, and ripped into the old Aretha Franklin standard, “Baby I Love You.” If that wasn’t steamy enough, she followed it with a slowed-down bump-and-grind version of “The Road’s My Middle Name.” “Ooh, this is getting sooo slinky,” Raitt purred during her solo, directing her power poses and double entendres at husband Michael O’Keefe. She later tore into Robert Johnson’s “Walkin’ Blues,” then slipped casually into the obligatory “Thing Called Love.” For an encore, Raitt invited the Indigo Girls, Chapman, and Native American singing group Ulali onstage to join her on “Angel From Montgomery” and the Buffy Sainte-Marie classic “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.”


Source: © Copyright Rolling Stone

THE ‘NO NUKES’ CONCERT, WITH BONNIE RAITT

By Rob Pegoraro
September 27, 1997

Wednesday’s “No Nukes” concert at the Warner Theatre was the perfect thing to irk Gingrich Republicans: a bunch of unapologetic liberals having a good time being, well, liberals.

The evening went off like a thoroughly politicized version of a musical-variety show, with sets by the artists — John Trudell, Indigo Girls and Bonnie Raitt, with a surprise appearance by Jackson Browne — interspersed with activists and politicians including Sen. Richard Bryan (D-Nev.), speaking in favor of the evening’s cause, barring nuclear waste dumps on Native American lands in the West.

Trudell, an activist turned musician, was by far the most strident, mixing poetry set to the tune of Indian chants by Milton “Quilt” Sahme with somewhat woolly-minded political diatribes (“the whole concept of freedom is just heroin for your consciousness”).

After Browne’s three-song appearance, featuring slide guitar and vocal help from Bonnie Raitt on “World in Motion,” Indigo Girls turned in a hard-edged set, marked by singer Amy Ray’s hyperkinetic stage presence. The Native American vocal trio Ulali provided a passionate accompaniment to “Shed Your Skin”; the set-closing “Closer to Fine” provided a contrasting dose of good-natured musical sloppiness.

Raitt offered easily the best singing of the night; her voice is a rare combination of husky aggression (as in her cover of John Hiatt’s “Thing Called Love”) and choir-girl clarity (Richard Thompson’s “Dimming of the Day”). Much of Raitt’s set consisted of quieter, almost hushed ballads like Beth Nielsen-Chapman’s “Color of Roses,” but plenty of kick remained in numbers like her twitchy, ska-flavored take on “Come to Me” and the show-closing cover of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.”


Source: © Copyright The Washington Post

Honor The Earth press conference – Washington, D.C. Sept.24, 1997

Press conference on the West Terrace of the Capitol in opposition to H.R. 1270, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1997, which would allow for the transfer of radioactive waste to Yucca Mountain, Nevada.

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