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KAABOO Del Mar heats up with ‘girl power’ Friday

No doubt about it: Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, Gwen Stefani & Nicki Bluhm give welcome musical boost to fledgling festival’s opening day.

on September 19, 2015 No comments


By George Varga

Bonnie Raitt smiles as she performs at the Zuma stage.Bonnie Raitt performs on the first day of the Kaaboo Del Mar festival Friday afternoon 9/18/2015Bonnie Raitt performs on the first day of the Kaaboo Del Mar festival Friday afternoon - 9/18/2015Bonnie Raitt – KAABOO/Del Mar, San Diego – September 18, 2015Bonnie Raitt plays next to guitarist George Marinelli as they perform at the Zuma stageBonnie Raitt and guitarist George Marinelli perform at the Zuma stage.Bonnie Raitt performs at the Zuma stage.Bonnie Raitt at KAABOO Del Mar Music Festival at the Del Mar Race Track and Fair Grounds in Del Mar, California - September 18, 2015George Marinelli plays guitar as he and Bonnie Raitt perform at the Zuma stage.Bonnie Raitt smiles as she performs at the Zuma stage.Bonnie Raitt plays the guitar at the Zuma stage.Bonnie Raitt performs at the Zuma stage.

DEL MAR — Sisters were definitely doing it for themselves Friday at KAABOO Del Mar, to paraphrase the title of a still-potent 1985 hit by Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox.

Indeed, it was barely mid-afternoon at the debut edition of the three-day festival at the Del Mar Fairgrounds when Bay Area country-roots singer Nicki Bluhm pinpointed the core strength of KAABOO’s opening-day lineup.

After she and her ace band, The Gramblers, completed their fetching ballad, “Queen of the Rodeo,” Bluhm told the audience at the festival’s Trestles stage: “I feel like there’s a lot of girl-power going on today. I’m very excited to see Bonnie Raitt. I’m very excited to see No Doubt. (And) Sheryl Crow? Geez! We’re just warming it up.”

About four hours later, Crow seconded Bluhm’s sentiments, and elaborated on them, during her own performance on the Zuma Stage, where she followed Raitt.

“I just want to say what a thrill it is to be standing on the same stage Bonnie Raitt was on,” Crow said to what appeared to be an audience of several thousand. “Without Bonnie Raitt, I wouldn’t be here. Without Bonnie Raitt, there would be no Gwen Stefani. Without Miss Bonnie Raitt carrying the rock ‘n’ roll torch, none of us would be here.”

That list could also include Shelbi Bennett, the gifted lead singer in the fetching San Diego band The Midnight Pine, which also performed Friday at KAABOO (although probably not Icona Pop, the two-woman Swedish electro-pop duo that was scheduled to perform shortly after midnight).

Whether by design or accident, Friday’s lineup featured the highest ratio of female artists. And, while they still constituted a minority of the 33 acts, Raitt, Crow, Bluhm and Stefani delivered more than their fair share of musical highlights.

Raitt, at 65, is the senior member of this very talented musical sorority. But she performed with infectious verve and fire throughout, beginning with a revamped version of The Equals’ 1968 hit “Baby Come Back” that made the short-lived English/Jamaican band sound like it had, in fact, been born and bred in Memphis.

Introducing “Used to Rule the World,” a standout song from her most recent album, “Slipstream,” Raitt quipped: “Remember when we used to rule the world? I don’t.”

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Her repertoire mixed choice cover versions (including James Taylor’s “Rainy Day Man,” a reggae-tinged rendition of Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line” and an exquisite performance of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery”) with the rollicking “I Believe I’m in Love with You” and “Something to Talk About,” along with the aching 1989 ballad “Nick of Time,” arguably still the best song she has written.

After finishing “Nick,” she slyly told the audience: “I haven’t been a man – yet. But life’s long; things could change.”

As usual, Raitt sang with soulful elan and played a series of tart, no-nonsense bottleneck guitar solos that accounted for some of the most memorable instrumental moments at KAABOO on Friday. Her band, which included erstwhile Jimi Hendrix and Crosby, Stills & Nash organist Mike Finnegan, accompanied her with a winning mix of precision and loose-limbed spunk.

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