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Live Review: Mavis Staples, Bonnie Raitt @ Darling Harbour Theatre
An unforgettable performance by two outstanding legends!

on April 12, 2023 No comments
David James Young

Two weeks after Mavis Staples last visited Australia, the world completely shut down. At 80 years old, it was understandably feared that this may have been the very last chance we got to spend an evening with this certified soul legend. Thankfully, the last surviving Staples Singer has made her way back down under at 83. “I’m a soldier, y’all!” she crows at the end of Fight – and boy, is she right.

When most people her age spend their days staring out the window, Staples still reaches in deep and delivers a heartfelt performance. Her voice is shaky and croaky and takes a minute to warm up – but the passion and the conviction do not wane for a second. Whether she’s delving into her own catalogue or whipping out fun covers like her vibrating take on Talking HeadsSlippery People, you can both see and feel how much performing still means to Staples after over half a century up on stage. 45 minutes doesn’t feel like nearly enough time in the presence of such greatness, but it’s worth taking stock of how lucky we are to have time with her still at all. Every last moment counts.

If consistency is key, consider Bonnie Raitt an expert locksmith. The Grammy-winning veteran has been enthralling Australian audiences since 1992, all with little more beyond her powerful voice and her virtuoso blues guitar playing. She’s never needed many whistles and bells to make her shows feel special – just hand her a six-string and have a tight band on call, and she’ll have the crowd enraptured just like that.

Tonight, her first Sydney show in six years proves to be no exception to this. It’s an understated affair, with only a few lighting changes and a spotlight accompanying Raitt and co. during the set. It’s this straightforward nature, however, that plays to Raitt’s strengths – she can allow for songs to speak for themselves, whether it’s the tasteful restraint and close vocal harmony of Nick of Time or the swinging groove of Something to Talk About.

Raitt has lost some close friends since she was last here. One of the more recent ones was Renee Geyer, who passed at the start of 2023. Raitt spoke to the audience of attending a memorial service for the late singer and reflected on her passing with Livin’ for the Ones – its resolute chorus, “Keep livin’ for the ones/The ones who didn’t make it”, ringing powerfully true. Another untimely loss that Raitt touches upon is country legend John Prine, who was one of the first noted victims of the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-2020.

Of course, Raitt has been singing Prine’s beloved Angel of Montgomery for nearly 50 years at this point – but now, on her first tour here since Prine’s death, the song stirs even deeper and more resonant emotions. Through watering eyes at its conclusion, Raitt thanks the audience for loving both Prine and his song as much as she and the band do. How could it ever be otherwise?

For as much as tonight is about taking stock and looking back, Raitt also finds the time to contrast that with a little fun. She’s playful in her storytelling and surprising in her covers – delivering a one-two of 80s classics during the set with INXSNeed You Tonight and Talking Heads’ Burning Down the House. While neither is the kind of song you’d normally associate with Raitt’s style of music, her husky vocals and the band’s smooth, slinking arrangement make the translation a relatively seamless one.

After bringing the house down with a powerhouse performance of her signature song I Can’t Make You Love Me and a beaming rendition of One Belief Away, there’s one thing left to do: Play the blues. She invites Mavis Staples’ guitarist Rick Holstrom out on stage, and everybody jams on B.B. King‘s Never Make You Move Too Soon to send the audience home with a smile on their faces. We have, again, been collectively unlocked by Raitt’s consistency, her heart and her evergreen talent.


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Bonnie Raitt Brings a Big Heart and a Big Voice to the Bowl
Evocative Vocals and Timeless Tunes Bring a Uniquely Joyful Noise to Santa Barbara

on September 26, 2022 No comments

Bonnie Raitt Brings a Big Heart and a Big Voice to the Bowl

By Leslie Dinaberg

With a set list that covered her 51-year career and ranged from ballads to blues to countrified rock, Bonnie Raitt was a definite crowd-pleaser at her September 22 show at the Santa Barbara Bowl. Yes, Raitt’s first album came out in 1971, and she’s been hitting the Bowl stage every few years since 1977. 

It did feel a bit like a reunion night at the beautiful amphitheater — I saw my first Bonnie Raitt show there in 1992, and I feel pretty certain that many of the people in the audience last week were there back then, including several of my parents’ pals popping up in the audience. Bonnie’s famous friends were there too, including Hale Milgrim, David Crosby and — in the front row — an agelessly spry Chubby Checker (“There’s no puberty in my life without Chubby Checker,” said Raitt), who friends say celebrated his 81st birthday at a private party the next night at SOhO.

Playing a mix of old songs and very, very new material from her 2022 album Just Like That… (a title that always makes me think of Sex and the City, but there’s certainly no obvious connection), Raitt’s heartfelt ballads were definitely the standouts for me. “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” sounded as sweetly sad as it did as the ultimate heartbreak song when it came out in 1991. And a beautiful, deeply emotional, and personal version of her dear friend and collaborator John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” is still pleasantly stuck in my head a few days later. So is her introduction of the 1971 classic tune (“I’ve sung this song for so many reasons and for so many decades”) with a dedication to Prine, who died in April 2020 from complications due to COVID.

Her 2022 song “Livin’ for the Ones” — co-written with her longtime guitarist George Marinelli — was a more rocking riff on the theme of loss. As she said, “Putting powerful emotions into songs like this is the best remedy I know. Here’s to living for the ones who are no longer with us.”

And ever the crowd pleasers, Raitt and her band — Marinelli on guitar, bassist James “Hutch” Hutchinson, drummer Ricky Fataar, Glenn Patscha on keyboards and backing vocals, and guitarist Kenny Greenberg Duke Levine — played no shortage of familiar favorites like “Not the Only One,” “Love Sneakin’ Up on You,” “Nick of Time,” and “Something to Talk About” — which fans happily sang and bopped along to. My favorite of the older tunes was “Have a Heart,” where Raitt showed off her considerable guitar chops, as well as her still-stunning vocals. 

At a time in her life when she could still easily be resting on her laurels, it was great to see Bonnie Raitt out there giving it her all and still doing what she does best.

Messages shared by James “Hutch” Hutchinson (#brbassman)


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Bonnie Raitt at the Santa Barbara Bowl

by Andrea Beenham November 4, 2022
© Ken Friedman

Playing to a sold-out show at the Santa Barbara Bowl, Bonnie Raitt delivered a phenomenal performance that captivated the crowd for over 90 minutes.  Lovingly introduced by Mavis Staples (referring to her as her ‘little sister’), Raitt shared her trademark gravelly vocals and beautiful loving energy behind her petite and sassy powerhouse frame.

Clearly excited to be back performing live after a long hiatus due to lockdown, Raitt held a confident but understated presence throughout the night, and she was humble and appreciative of all in attendance as she delivered what could easily be considered one of her best-ever shows. The capacity crowd included Chubby Checker and Raitt’s former drummer, Tony Braunagel (who each got a shout out from her on stage), along with other musical heavyweights.

© Marina Chavez

“Made Up Mind” from her latest album (Just Like That) opened the set, with Raitt’s stunning clear vocals and guitar work setting the evening off with a mellow gentleness, building quickly with “Love Ain’t Got No Business” (from 2002’s Silver Lining). “Blame It On Me” (another new track from her 2022 album) included a fabulous organ solo from Glenn Patcha, dynamo fatback drumming from Ricky Fataar, and smooth vocals that transitioned into a gravel-accentuated growl. Jumping on the keys for “Nick Of Time,” Raitt continued with a first-ever live performance of “Back Around”—originally recorded with Habib Koite while visiting Mali—and continued on with “Just Like That” (from the newest album), a song written to commemorate the late John Prine (who wrote and first recorded one of Raitt’s best-known hits, “Angel From Montgomery”).

The energy kicked up a notch with singalong favorite, “Something to Talk About” before Raitt delivered another new song, “Livin’ For The Ones’ – another nod to Prine, as well as others we have lost over the past few years. Surprises included her cover of INXS’ “One of My Kind” and a mashup of Chaka Khan / Rufus’ “You Got The Love” with Raitt’s 1994 hit, “Love Sneakin’ Up On You,” which also drew some serious crowd participation. 

The show was rounded out with 1989’s “Have A Heart” and her classic “Angel From Montgomery, before she was summoned for an encore – which was nothing short of magical. Delivering an intimate stripped-back version of “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” the stadium stood in hushed awe, taking in every note, before joining in on “Not The Only One” and “I Believe I’m In Love With You.”

Bonnie Raitt performs in Tucson, Arizona 2019 © C.Elliott

Overall, Raitt’s performance was relaxed and intimate, and her vocals and guitar work were stunning. A consummate professional, she made the delivery of her music look and sound effortless and was quick to point out the luxury of each of us being able to be out enjoying live music in a crowd, while other parts of the world were suffering in a fight for their basic survival. Gracious and appreciative, her music was surpassed only by her loving energy and the words she shared to try and encourage and lift up all in attendance.

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Source: © Copyright Music Connection

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Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples Roar Through a Heroines’ Double-Header at the Greek: Concert Review

on September 25, 2022 No comments

Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples Roar Through a Heroines’ Double-Header at the Greek

by Chris Willman

If the planet was under threat of annihilation from beyond, and we had to present our divine or interplanetary overlords with just two musical emissaries to make a case that humankind is worth being spared as a species, Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples might be the couple we’d want to pick. Fortunately, with no such emergency yet in sight, they’ve managed to pair up of their own volition for a segment of Raitt’s current headlining tour that makes for a two-sided portrait of what heart, soul and understated heroism look like in music.

Not that those kinds of superlatives showed up anywhere but in the subtext of Saturday night’s show at the Greek Theatre in L.A. It was a show where you could think about what Staples meant during the civil rights movement, and since, or about Raitt’s role as a warrior without uniform in the early days of women fighting to get their due in rock. Or you could just enjoy the chops and grease that feed into the respective performances of historically significant figures who wear their mantles as lightly as anything else they’d need to peel off upon stepping into a humid roadhouse.

“It feels like a club in here,” said Raitt, a few numbers into a 90-minute set on an unusually sweaty first-week-of-fall evening. She did also stop later on to momentarily admire the full house at the Greek — not as a verification of her own queenliness, but a signpost of her ability to finally be back, after quarantine, where she feels she most belongs: on a bus.

Raitt’s set was heavy with five songs from her latest album, “Just Like That…,” with the front-loading of new material including three of the first four numbers — all in a musically familiar enough vein that there likely wasn’t much balking from an audience that knew she’d get to “Nick of Time” more than in the nick of time. She made a point of earmarking the topical resonance of some of the newer songs, introducing “Livin’ for the Ones” by its fuller, extended title, “Livin’ for the Ones That Didn’t Make It,” to make sure the themes of loss and gratitude didn’t get lost. Before she inevitably got to “Angel From Montgomery,” a song she said she hadn’t been sure she’d be able to get through on this first tour since the death of its writer, John Prine, she introduced a new song of her own penmanship, the “Just Like That” title track, as something she had tried to write in the vein of a classic Prine song. “Waitin’ for You to Blow” was explained as a lyric about the demon that sits on the shoulder of those in recovery, harking back to the days when she was first writing about being in recovery herself, more than three decades ago.

Bonnie Raitt at The Greek Theatre, Los Angeles 9-24-2022 © Chris Willman /Variety

Setting up some of the choicer classics, Raitt would pause to add a tart or sentimental note — or sometimes both, as when she intro-ed the title track of 1989’s career-revivifying, Grammy-hoarding “Nick of Time” album. She noted that the woman who inspired the first verse, childless at the time, was in attendance with her grown-up miracle baby. But she also established that at least part of the song was about her, when she quipped, “Remember when we were afraid to turn 40?” Bringing it back from the joke, she added: “We’re not scared now.” Bringing mortality into it is not something Raitt shies away from, in any case: “No Business,” a John Hiatt cover (taking the place of his more familiar “Thing Called Love” in the setlist), came with not just a shout-out to producer Don Was but one of the ones that didn’t make it, that particular Capitol-era album’s late engineer, Ed Cherney.

It’s long been the case that two Raitts don’t make a wrong, and the two iconic iterations that we got of her in the Greek performance both proved as worth of veneration as they’ve always been. There’s the heartbreaker Bonnie, waiting to deliver “I Can’t Make You Love Me” until seated on a stool for the encore because there’s not much that can follow it. (Anyone who harbored any doubts about whether she’d still be in prime vocal form for her showcase ballads, into her early 70s, likely would not have spent much time thinking about how her powerhouse father, John Raitt, sang creditably into his 90s.)

And there’s slide-guitar hero Bonnie — a player who might merit a place in rock’s Hall of Fame if all she’d ever done was act as somebody else’s lead guitarist, without ever singing a lick of lead vocals herself. Raitt played slide more as an undertow during the opening number, the new “Made Up Mind,” then set it down for the second song, before declaring, “No more Mrs. Nice Guy — give me that Strat,” as she went into the third with full intentions of giving that instrument its own follow-spot from then on. Her instrument was also part of a guitar army at times, especially as she lined up in a row with George Marinelli (a longtime cohort who’s joining her band on select dates) and regular tour guitarist Duke Levine on “Livin’ for the Ones,” which co-writer Marinelli seems to have originally fashioned as a pure Stones workout before Raitt added her poignant lyrics.

Raitt has been mixing up the setlists a little on this tour (which, as she noted, is just getting underway and extends into 2023). So has Staples — on any given night, there’s at least a faint chance she will cover Talking Heads’ “Slippery People” and Raitt will end her set with “Burning Down the House.” Neither of those Heads songs popped up Saturday, with the headliner preferring to end the pre-encore portion instead with a medley of Chaka Khan and Rufus’ “You Got the Love” and her own “Love Sneakin’ Up on You.”

With 50 years of touring under her belt, there’s not much about Raitt that counts as a sneak attack at this point, but the sellout status of the Greek speaks to how she’s one of the most reliable artists we’ve known over that half-century — and maybe the one we can most certainly count on to reassure us that we do (to cite another classic performed) “have a heart.”

Mavis Staples at The Greek Theatre, Los Angeles 9-24-2022 © Chris Willman /Variety

Raitt didn’t inject a lot of politics into her set, beyond pointing out the presence of a Ukrainian flag draped across the front of Ricky Fataar’s drum riser (“They’re going to need a lot more of our help,” she said, predicting a more heightened refugee crisis to come”). With HeadCount on site to register voters, it may not take a lot of effort to suss where the singer stands on certain key issues. Staples had already cited a fair amount of current events in her opening performance, anyway, as in “This Is My Country,” she added a spoken-word segment that began with “I’m not too proud right now…” What is Staples fired up about? The Supreme Court reversing women’s rights, politicians toying with migrants for publicity (“They got babies!”), and limitations being put on voter options in minority areas. Out in the lobby, “Mavis for President” buttons were on sale on the merch booth, although, sadly, there are no signs yet of a Staples PAC.

Aside from that fleeting recognition that, yes, everything is going to hell, Staples’ set was a 50-minute joyful noise, full of the secular gospel that fueled the family’s career in the ’60s and has carried through to the solo renaissance that got seriously underway for her in the mid-2000s. Her material with and without the family veered from religious uplift to social uplift, where it has almost entirely stayed, and she is as great an emblem of social justice-as-joy as America has had for the last 74 years — the exact figure she put on exactly how long the Staples have been “taking you there.”

But there has been one very sexy number that slipped through in the Staple Singers’ catalog of classics, “Let’s Do It Again,” written by Curtis Mayfield for the sisters in 1976. (We didn’t have to look that one up because Staples sometimes provided the dates herself. “Curtis Mayfield! 1976!… We gonna take you, 1971!”) She played the sauciness of “Let’s Do It Again” for all it was worth in some amusingly extended call-and-response with her band leader, Rick Holmstrom, before putting a stop to it. “All right, I got enough,” she quipped, taking a seat before the grand finale. “I’m getting too up in age for this.” Not to worry; “let’s do it a little” is a fine modification for a performer who’s earned the right to race herself and then pace herself. Up to that possibly theatrical rest stop, and again for the finale, Staples was racing like the thoroughbred she still is.

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“I don’t know if any teenyboppers are out there?” Staples asked at one point. “Because teenyboppers, they come out to see what us old folk are doing, and we love them — we learn from them teenyboppers. You out there, teenyboppers?” Parts of the crowd screamed in response, and if that was a baldfaced lie, maybe it was an excusable one on a night so otherwise hallmarked by the blues and the not-too-abstract truth.

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Bonnie Raitt And Special Guest Mavis Staples Pack L.A.’s Greek Theater

‘Variety’ called the show ‘a two-sided portrait of what heart, soul and understated heroism look like in music.’

By Paul Sexton – September 26,
Bonnie Raitt performs onstage during a special event hosted by Spotify and AmericanaFest at Cannery Ballroom on September 10, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. © John Shearer /Getty Images for Spotify

Bonnie Raitt’s …Just Like That tour arrived in Hollywood on Saturday (24) at the Greek Theater, for her penultimate show with special guest Mavis Staples. Raitt’s 90-minute set included a generous selection of material from the 2022 album that gives the tour its name, as well as plenty of favorites from her distinguished songbook.

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Highlights included her signature interpretation of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery,” which Raitt told the audience she wasn’t sure she would be able to get through on this tour, in the wake of her friend’s death in 2020. She also shared such fixtures as “Nick Of Time” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” covers of John Hiatt’s “No Business,” INXS’ “Need You Tonight,” and Paul Brady’s “Not The Only One,” before a closing “Longing In Their Hearts.”

Musing on the respective credentials, both as artists and as spokespeople for social change, Chris Willman’s review of the show for Variety called it “a two-sided portrait of what heart, soul and understated heroism look like in music…it was a show where you could think about what Staples meant during the civil rights movement, and since, or about Raitt’s role as a warrior without uniform in the early days of women fighting to get their due in rock.

“Or you could just enjoy the chops and grease that feed into the respective performances of historically significant figures who wear their mantles as lightly as anything else they’d need to peel off upon stepping into a humid roadhouse.”

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In her own 50-minute set, Staples sang “This Is My Country,” the opening track (which on the record features the late Levon Helm) from her current album Carry Me Home. She also delved into her rich history with the Staple Singers, notably for the anthemic “I’ll Take You There” and for the Curtis Mayfield song “Let’s Do It Again.”

Raitt and Staples have one more show together in this double bill, tomorrow night (27) at the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park in San Diego, before Raitt continues her itinerary with special guest Marc Cohn on Friday in Tempe, Arizona. Dates stretch until November 19.

Watch Bonnie Raitt’s remastered Capitol Records video catalog on her official YouTube channel.

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Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples Setting The Stage on Fire with their Dazzling Performances

by Jennifer Stone September 27,
Bonnie Raitt performs “Turn Me Around” at the annual San Francisco Jazz Gala on January 30, 2020
© Nina Riggio /Special to The San Francisco Chronicle

Bonnie Raitt along with her special guest Mavis Staples left the audience short of words after their powerful performance in the L.A.’s Greek Theater. The show was called “a two-sided portrait of what heart, soul and understated heroism look like in music.”

Raitt arrived at the Greek Theater, LA for her show, and later on her special guest, Mavis Staples accompanied her for the historical performance of the decade. The show was seamlessly conveying a story of a man who is associated with the civil rights movement and Staples was brilliant in every way possible. And Raitt was a warrior, portraying the early days of women fighting for their due in rock.

The highlights of the show included her signature interpretation of John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery,” she said that earlier she was unsure whether she can pull off the act but she did a commendable job. She also has included the fixtures of “Nick Of Time” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” covers of John Hiatt’s “No Business,” INXS’ “Need You Tonight,” and Paul Brady’s “Not The Only One,” before a closing “Longing In Their Hearts.”

Mavis Staples performs at Overture Center in Madison while on tour with Bonnie Raitt – July 26, 2022
© Ruthie Hauge

Chris Willman wrote in his review about this performance, the musical is “a two-sided portrait of what heart, soul and understated heroism look like in music…it was a show where you could think about what Staples meant during the civil rights movement, and since, or about Raitt’s role as a warrior without uniform in the early days of women fighting to get their due in rock.”

being mesmerized by the performance he wrote, “Or you could just enjoy the chops and grease that feed into the respective performances of historically significant figures who wear their mantles as lightly as anything else they’d need to peel off upon stepping into a humid roadhouse.”

Raitt and Staples have another show together after the spellbinding performance people are looking for it more, the performance will take place on the 27th at the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park in San Diego. Right after that Raitt will continue the tour with her next special guest Marc Cohn on Friday in Tempe, Arizona on the 19th of November 2022.

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