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Bonnie Raitt winningly kicks off Wavelength

on August 23, 2013 No comments
By For The Register | Orange County Register

Although the OC Fair ended Aug. 11, Pacific Symphony’s Wavelength Festival of Music has provided one more weekend of concerts, extending Pacific Amphitheatre’s summer schedule via four eclectic performances.

Night 1 played out Thursday with singer-guitarist Bonnie Raitt headlining a bill also featuring master bluesman Keb’ Mo’, the Barry Perkins Collective and violinist Josh Vietti.

Bonnie Raitt performs opening night of Wavelength Festival at Pacific Amphitheatre, Costa Mesa, CA  8-22-2013
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Bonnie Raitt performs opening night of Wavelength Festival at Pacific Amphitheatre, Costa Mesa, CA  8-22-2013
Bonnie Raitt performs opening night of Wavelength Festival at Pacific Amphitheatre, Costa Mesa, CA  8-22-2013

Raitt’s 110-minute main set was everything a fan of the Grammy winner could ask for and more. She was just as relaxed and engaging with fans as during her memorable headlining turn at the Doheny Blues Festival in May 2008, yet this Costa Mesa crowd seemed comprised mostly of diehards, as opposed to partying festival-goers who test the patience of music enthusiasts. The result was a chance to really hear Raitt and her top-notch four-man band perform potent versions of her staples as well as gems from her latest album, last year’s outstanding “Slipstream.”

Indeed, the reworked classics that fill that disc were among the highlights here. Her reggae-tinged take on Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line” found Raitt closing the song with an expressive and extended slide-guitar solo, layered artfully with riffs from fellow six-stringer George Marinelli. An acoustic blues ride through Bob Dylan’s “Million Miles” featured keyboardist Mike Finnigan and Marinelli in a consummate demonstration of how even quiet material can become charged in the right hands.

Later, the album’s strengths shined again via a commanding performance of the folk-rock tune “Marriage Made in Hollywood,” a beautiful piece penned by Paul Brady and Michael O’Keefe (Raitt’s ex-husband), given an irresistible arrangement featuring an acoustic breakdown and room for Marinelli to deliver two sharp, distinctive solos.

Raitt remains eager to please fans and of course offered up her best-known songs (“Something to Talk About,” her version of John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery”) with forceful renditions throughout the night, and though now 63, Raitt’s glowing soprano remains a mighty force.

She launched her memorable encore with a hushed take on the heart-wrenching “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” her emotionally nuanced delivery quieting the crowd. The reggae-flavored “Have a Heart” reignited the upbeat mood en route to Keb’ Mo’ joining the headliner for a rousing handling of Aretha Franklin’s “Baby I Love You” and a final Chuck Berry-esque rocker that richly closed things out.

Keb’ Mo’ took the stage to plenty of cheers and over the course of 35 minutes used nothing more than a few acoustic guitars and a harmonica as he performed original material that quickly connected with people. While possessing a warm baritone voice, it’s the singer’s personable style and solid command of Delta blues and slide guitar, all layered onto real-world tales of love and loss, that really solidifies his work.

Songs such as “Government Cheese” might come off silly in the hands of many players, but Keb’ Mo’ brought that tune to vivid life with realistic details of poverty-stricken struggles. Likewise, his love song “Shave Yo Legs” brought plenty of laughter, yet at its core it’s a beautiful song that delves into deep and unconditional love in a winning performance.

Barry Perkins, principal trumpeter with Pacific Symphony for close to a decade, opened the main stage with his local collective, including fellow PSO members Elliott Moreau (saxophone), Robert Schumitzky (violin) and Laszlo Mezo (cello). They performed an instrumental set of classical, pop and Latin jazz for early attendees, standing out with the lovely “Cinema Paradiso” and an up-tempo version of Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed.”

Performing in the concourse outside the main amphitheater Thursday evening (and again Friday), violinist Josh Vietti showed off virtuoso chops on his instrument as people entered the venue. One fan in a cowboy hat was thrilled when the fiddler fulfilled his request to play the iconic solos from the Charlie Daniels Band’s signature song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

Source: © Copyright The Orange County Register

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Bonnie Raitt gives musicians, fans something to talk about

on August 25, 2006 No comments
Bruce R. Miller Journal staff writer

Bonnie Raitt has two albums to consider: “Bonnie Raitt and Friends,” an expanded version of her VH1 experience and “Souls Alike,” the first album that bears the credit “produced by Bonnie Raitt.”

Collaboration isn’t just a sometime thing for Bonnie Raitt. It’s a way of life.

“When somebody calls and asks you to guest, you just feel blessed,” she says by phone just days before her appearance in Sioux City. “I’ve worked with everyone from Tony Bennett to John Lee Hooker and it’s this incredible, great gift.”

Almost every time, she says, the music is better than she imagined. “I hate to sound glib, but the magic of opening your eyes and looking across at Willie Nelson or B.B. King nodding is just wonderful.”

Sometimes, those partnerships take work — the two have to be available at the same time, agree on the music and determine what they want to do — but the results can be inspirational.

Now, Raitt says, she’s the “older diva” newcomers look up to…”and I’m very proud of that. It’s a natural part of the process. When I was their age, I was looking up to these older blues artists and now I’ve got Norah Jones thinking I’m a badass. It’s pretty great.”

A VH1 special in 2005 prompted a “Bonnie Raitt and Friends” CD and DVD. Taped in Atlantic City, it gave Raitt a chance to check off more names on her “want to work with” list and produce music most wouldn’t think obvious (“Tennessee Waltz,” anyone?). When Raitt saw the footage assembled, she was floored.

“It was like being at my own wake. They said all these nice things about me.”

It was also another chance for Raitt to perform with Keb’ Mo’ (her current touring partner), a longtime friend.


From a special VH1 concert at Atlantic City, NJ on Sept. 30, 2005. Bonnie Raitt joined on stage by “funky as hell” Keb Mo.

“We’re like brother and sister,” she says. “We’re about the same age. We were both raised in Los Angeles…we had a lot of connections.”

They met, oddly enough, after Jackson Browne told Raitt he knew someone she’d love. While driving to Santa Barbara from Los Angeles, she happened to be listening to the radio and heard this guy on the public radio station playing live. It turned out to be Keb’. “I said, ‘I’ve got to talk to whoever that is.'” She called the station and officials there didn’t believe she was who she said. “No, it’s really Bonnie Raitt,” she insisted. That night at a blues club in Santa Monica, they met and talked. The attraction was immediate.

“Once you have that family connection, that affinity for something so deep as music, it’s an unspoken bond. It’s a soul connection. Going into the studio is just a breeze…you just let the tape roll. Jackson and Kevin and I are like brothers and sister.”

When the current tour is done (yup, Keb’ and Bonnie sing together during each other’s sets), she expects she’ll take another break and regroup. “I had one in 1996 and one in 2000. I go in about five-year stints. I take a break, fill up and do something else. I have a satisfying home life. The last time, I wanted to travel and nurture my relationships. My goal was to have my personal life be as satisfying as my professional life.”

Within a year’s time, Raitt’s father, actor John Raitt, and her mother died. Additionally, an older brother had contracted brain cancer. “I have another brother and we all rallied around them — first my dad when he had a heart attack. Then my mother when her Alzheimer’s flared up and she passed away. When my dad’s heart disease leveled off, I went into the studio and did ‘Souls Alike.'” Music became a release for her; it also helped her see how important those relationships were.

“What you learn from people who are suffering is the courage they have and how they value everything,” she says. Her brother, who is virtually cured thanks to a macrobiotic diet, showed her how unnecessary it was to “sweat the small stuff. If there is any gift in illness and passing, it’s in appreciating life.”

In concert, Raitt says, “I feel my parents are with me. They were such a great inspiration — my mother was my dad’s musical director and accompanist. My father was one of Broadway’s greatest leading men and one of the most positive guys around. Thanks to them, I’m a deeper person than I was decades earlier. It’s like all those blues people who get better and better with age. Your soul gets richer.”

The music does, too.

While Raitt continues to figure into most every year’s Grammy competition, fans remember THE year — 1990, when she took home four Grammys for “Nick of Time.”

“It was this big Cinderella story,” she says. “I was doing the same music I had been doing for 20 years, but people were finally thinking it was cool. I wasn’t penalized for being eclectic — ‘Are you country? Are you blues? What are you?’ All the ducks lined up and it was such great career validation.”

In a single night, Raitt became the Queen of the Grammys, a title many believe she still holds.

The wins pushed her onto a new plain, allowing her to take time off and “reap the rewards” of success. “I got to give my band and crew a raise,” she says proudly.

“Success can have a downside. But because it came to me later in life, I had the maturity to know how to handle it.”

Still, it wasn’t like she appeared out of nowhere and suddenly became this force. “Before then, I had sold 150,000 records, which, for me was a lot. I was never out of the running. I was always on tour. (There were) sensationalist reports (that) I was stumbling around drinking all the time. But, basically, I wanted to lose some weight, so I stopped drinking. I ended up finding out I was an addict and I really took to being sober. It’s been 20 years now and It really worked for me.

“But I was never terribly unsuccessful. I was more of a cult artist and that’s probably what I’d be now (without the wins).”

Instead, she’s the best friend, the colleague, the mentor, the diva.

Going to the Grammys? “It’s a blast.” It’s like old home week for her. “I cheer for the underdog. I get to see people I haven’t seen in year.”

And she gets to wonder just how great it might be to collaborate with some of the new people she admires.

“There’s a wealth of Irish and Scottish music I love and a ton of African musicians I’d love to record with.”

And, then, there’s Keith Richards.

“We’ve been flirting with recording together one day. I love the Stones. I love his work. I’d really like to do something with him.”

Bank on it to happen. If there’s one thing musicians can’t turn down, it’s a collaboration with Bonnie.

The reason? They know it’ll give ’em something to talk about.

Source: © Copyright Sioux City Journal

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