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Bonnie Raitt brings the blues to Birmingham, shouts out local advocacy group on stage

on November 10, 2022 No comments
by: Lee Hedgepeth

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — She gave Birmingham something to talk about.

On Wednesday night, a day after the 10-time Grammy winner turned 73, Bonnie Raitt brought the blues to the Magic City. And she brought a lot more, too.

During the show, Raitt and her band showcased their decades of experience, performing numbers from across the musical spectrum — from Bob Dylan’s “Million Miles” to Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” — with a funk and fervor made all the more enjoyable by Raitt’s sultry, experienced vocal.

Raitt and her band performed in front of a simple cloud backdrop, but dramatic colored lighting made the staging seem dynamic. For “Nick of Time,” Raitt switched from her guitar (played expertly with a slide) to a keyboard, the clouds behind her shifting to a deep, intimate purple as she sang the story of a woman “scared to run out of time.”

The crowd, which nearly filled the BJCC’s concert hall to capacity, adored Raitt.

“Angel from Montgomery,” one woman yelled from the crowd midway through the concert.

“I already sang that one,” Raitt said as the audience laughed. “Maybe she’s just calling me an angel from Montgomery.”

Early on, Raitt referenced the midterm elections, which — like her birthday — had taken place the day before her Birmingham performance. She was glad she wouldn’t have to see any more political ads on television, she said.

“Imagine what that money could’ve gone to,” Raitt said. “I turned off the TV yesterday. That was my birthday present.”

Still, issues of the day simmered to the surface throughout the night.

For the duration of her performances, a Ukrainian flag sat on stage not far behind Raitt.

“They will need our help for a long time,” Raitt said. “So let’s help take care of them.”

Raitt also emphasized the need to fight to protect the environment, at one point in the concert plugging local advocacy group GASP, the Greater Birmingham Alliance to Stop Pollution, which tabled in the concert hall’s lobby.

GASP’s executive director Michael Hansen said he grew up in Memphis listening to artists like Bonnie Raitt. Her mention of the advocacy organization, he said, provided the group exposure to folks they may not necessarily have been able to reach without her help.

“I’m over the moon about it,” Hansen said. “She’s a music legend and an advocate for environmental causes, racial justice, and so many things we care about. So being there and knowing she talked about our work from the stage is amazing.

More than once during Wednesday’s show, Raitt spoke about the loss of fellow singer-songwriter John Prine, who died in 2020.

“It was one of the greatest pains of my life,” she said of Prine’s death. Then, with the audience on the edges of their seats, Raitt performed “Angel from Montgomery,” a song Prine had written and she had elevated to the highest of musical heights. Some in the crowd wept.

“It was an honor to sing that in Alabama,” she said.

Prine, she explained, had a way of writing with authenticity from another person’s perspective. It was something she’d always admired. She thought of Prine when she wrote “Just Like That,” she told the crowd.

She’d seen a human interest story on the evening news — “They show those to make up for everything they just told you” — about a mother who went to meet the man who’d received her son’s heart through organ donation. The story moved her. She channeled Prine, she said, and wrote “Just Like That.” BJCC’s concert hall was silent as she sang the ballad.

“I lay my head upon his chest,” she sang. “And I was with my boy again.”

The crowd at the BJCC was most excited, of course, when Raitt sang her hits, including “Let’s Give ‘Em Something to Talk About” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” which came as her first encore.

But it was Raitt’s calm, experienced musicality that made Wednesday night’s Birmingham performance special. Whether a blues number, a steady-rocking cover, or a straight-to-the-heart ballad, Raitt’s performances only got better. And that’s something to talk about.

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Source: © Copyright CBS42 – Nexstar Media

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Bonnie Raitt still smolders

on November 19, 2013 No comments
By James Reed Globe Staff

No one, particularly from her generation, sings the words “rock me, baby” quite like Bonnie Raitt. It’s more like private pillow talk rather than a song lyric.

When she uttered that line, at least a handful of times, at the Orpheum Theatre on Sunday, she exuded the same sly sensuality that has been key to her broad appeal since she first emerged in the early 1970s.

It was a homecoming of sorts for Raitt, who lived in the area in the late ’60s when she attended Radcliffe College, and old times were clearly on her mind.

“I got so much history in this place [that] I’m grinning from ear to ear,” she told the sold-out crowd by way of introduction before easing into a two-hour set that was loose and limber enough to survey most of her long career.

Raitt turned 64 recently, a fact that she noted as a point of pride, and she’s starting to wear her age as a badge of hard-won honor. The older Raitt who sang Chris Smither’s “Love Me Like a Man,” raunchy and smoldering at the same time, brought more pathos to that acoustic blues number than she could have mustered as a young woman.

The same could be said of her performance of “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” A signature ballad for her, by now it could be a rote staple in her repertoire; instead, she imbued it with an elegiac sense of loss, like a torch singer after last call at the bar. She began “Angel From Montgomery,” dedicated to her mother’s memory, as an a cappella hymn that sent shivers down the spine.

Moving seamlessly between tearjerkers and stomping rockers, she was highly attuned to her band members, each of whom — guitarist George Marinelli, bassist James “Hutch” Hutchinson, drummer Ricky Fataar, and organ player Mike Finnigan — added vibrant color and contrasts to Raitt’s work on slide guitar.

She also got by with a little help from her friends, including Marc Cohn, who sang Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love” as a duet with Raitt and also opened the show with a set of stately piano pop. Raitt also brought out Bonnie Hayes, the head of the songwriting department at Berklee College of Music, and they took turns singing “Have a Heart,” which Hayes wrote.

They all took a final bow with Raitt, who glowed like she had just spent the past two hours doing exactly what she wanted. By her own admission, she had.

“We love our jobs, and we’re not suited for anything else,” she had joked earlier in the evening.

James Reed can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJamesReed.

Source: © Copyright The Boston Globe
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Bonnie Raitt Captivates in Chicago
Plays a mix of covers, old and new material for the first of two sold-out shows

on May 20, 2012 No comments
By Dan Hyman

“I should go away more often,” Bonnie Raitt told the hooting-and-hollering crowd at the Chicago Theatre on Saturday evening before unspooling a multi-song encore highlighted by the heart-wrenching 1991 ballad “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”  Raitt, of course, was referring to the two years she had spent away from the road – a break that ended earlier this month when she kicked off an 80-plus-show tour in Oklahoma. Judging by her admitted amazement at the Saturday crowd’s overwhelmingly positive reception, and the size and classiness of the venue, Raitt seems quite pleased to be back. “I’ll never forget this,” Raitt said. 

The ginger-topped singer’s time away from the stage was a definite change of pace; Raitt had been playing live shows for nearly four decades straight – or, more specifically, “18 album-cycles nonstop,” as she recently told Rolling Stone. But the downtime gave her the opportunity to cope with the deaths of her parents and her brother and to record Slipstream, her first album in seven years, the bulk of which was on prominent display at the first of two sold-out Chicago shows.

Raitt’s new tunes fit snugly into her incredibly expansive catalog of hits that have consistently displayed a natural knack for pop, blues and jazz sensibilities – and, of course, a wicked mastery of the slide-guitar. Raitt’s new material was tight and polished on Saturday. After opening with the melodic strut of “Used To Rule The World,” Raitt unleashed the first of a handful of cover songs that popped up throughout the evening with the slinky reggae groove of her take on Gerry Rafferty’s 1978 gem “Right Down The Line.” Later, after removing her signature slide, now armed with a Taylor acoustic, Raitt serenaded the crowd with a spare rendition of “Million Miles,” a Bob Dylan deep-cut off 1997’s Time Out Of Mind, an album Raitt explained she was especially fond of.

Raitt has always split the difference between electric blues fantasy, pop-rock and acoustic ballads. Saturday was no different: several times she careened from a bluesy strut (“Love Sneaking Up On You,” “Love Letter”) to a pop nugget (“Something To Talk About”) or an understated lullaby (“Not Cause I Wanted To”).

It did take some time, however, for Raitt to find her groove; For the first third of the show she appeared slightly terse and rigid. But the visibly evident trust and adoration she has for her four-piece band – guitarist George Marinelli, keyboardist Mike Finnigan, bassist “Hutch” Hutchinson, and drummer Ricky Fataar – allowed the singer to loosen up as the show progressed. Raitt even eased up so much as to unleash some humor (she joked that jazz music is when a band guesses the key a song is in) and pause several times for a lipstick-application break. At times, Raitt, wearing black jeans and a blazer bedazzled with purple arrows pointing to both her head and heart, got downright giddy. For the final song of the night, she brought out opening act, Marc Cohn, and his guitarist to aid in the group-hug that was Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love,” during which she and Cohn, both wearing massive smiles, slow-danced during a musical interlude.

It was a pleasure to see Raitt in good spirits. But it was the night’s heaviest moment that resonated the most. “I’m at that age where parents start going and people are sick,” Raitt said quietly, before breaking into an achingly beautiful rendition of the 1971 John Prine classic “Angel From Montgomery,” which she dedicated to her late mother. “I don’t take anything for granted anymore.”

Set List:

“Used To Rule The World”

“Right Down The Line”

“Something To Talk About”

“Million Miles”

“You Can’t Fail Me Now”

“Love Sneaking Up On You”

“Come To Me”

“Marriage Made in Hollywood”

“Ain’t Gonna Let You Go”

“Not Cause I Wanted To”

“Angel From Montgomery”

“Down To You”

“Love Letter”

“I Feel So Damn Good (I’ll Be Glad When I Get the Blues)”

“I Can’t Make You Love Me”

“Nick of Time”

“Crazy Love”

Source: © Copyright Rolling Stone

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