Bonnie Raitt’s birthday falls on Election Day, so it was no surprise that last night at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Raitt continued her hallmark activism with several progressive political statements.
“Make me happy on my birthday!” she shouted, and announced that nonpartisan HeadCount was on-site to register voters.
Raitt was in appreciative spirits and good humor, super connected to her fans. “Thanks for giving up football for us,” she said, a nod to the Denver Broncos’ rematch of Super Bowl 50 that was happening miles away during the show.
Raitt’s emotional range was as wide as her vocal range. She joked about her hair, applying lipstick for love songs and phlegm. Yet she was dead serious about fracking, the presidential campaign and heartbreak.
Now into the fifth decade of her career, Raitt is arguably the most successful woman in the music business. Since 1971, she’s sold more than 16 million records and garnered 10 Grammys. Rolling Stone included her on its lists of both best singers and best guitarists of all time (number 50 and 89, respectively).
At Red Rocks, Raitt the Great demonstrated why. The woman could make a crowd cry just by singing the ABCs. Her scalding vocals were especially bewitching on stripped-down torch songs “Angel From Montgomery,” “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” and “Dimming of the Day” — performed as a duet with opener Richard Thompson, who penned the song. And her slide guitar, as Bonnie herself once put it, sounded like bacon smells. That is, good, but with a little guilt.
Scene: This show might well have been sold out. It was packed to the top of the amphitheater. The average age was probably a little over 40 with all sorts of people represented. There were bikers, hippies, preppy people and just about everyone in between. Bonnie sure has a diverse fanbase. The weather was beautiful about 70 with a slight chill in the air. Perfect late August night.
Opener: Keb’ Mo. I have been listening to Keb for more than 10 years now and while I think his more recently albums don’t highlight his strength in acoustic blues, I love seeing him perform live. His set was about 50 minutes and concentrated on material from his new album Suitcase. It was a strong set and after the first few songs he really loosened up and began to show his trademark charm. Toward the end of the set he picked up the pace and really got the crowd going with some scorching solos. The standouts in his tight five piece band were the bassist and the harmonica chops of his touring keyboard player. As he left the stage to a standing ovation the road crew brought out two chairs. As I expected Keb emerged seconds later hand in hand with Bonnie Raitt. Each played acoustic guitar trading licks and verses on one of my favorite Keb Mo tunes: “Every Morning” from his first album. Our first taste of Bonnie’s voice for the night proved to me that she hasn’t lost a step since she first played Red Rocks back in 1976, in fact her voice may be better than it was early in her career.
Bonnie Raitt: The lights went down about 8:45 and Raitt and her band took the stage to a thunderous ovation. Dressed a flowing blue blouse that called to mind Dolly Parton, they opened the show with “Roadrunner,” an old blues tune by Jr. Walker. That just gave us a taste of the blues she would serenade us with for the next hour and 45 minutes. Raitt and her band were having a great time all night, whether they were raging through a stomping blues tune, forgetting a lyric or berating President Bush, it was all smiles.
In my book keyboard player Jon Cleary would have stolen the show had it not been for the legend he shared the stage with. His New Orleans piano and Hammond B3 solos thrilled the crowd and had Raitt singing his praises all night. (His own band, Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, is well worth the price of a ticket you ever get the chance). He got the chance to show off his vocal skills on a couple of tunes including a duet with Raitt on “Unnecessarily Mercenary” a track from her latest album Souls Alike. His own “Fools Game” was dedicated to anyone in the audience who had been a “fool in love.”
Midway through the set Raitt acknowledged the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting Cleary’s home town of New Orleans and dedicated “God Was In the Water” to all of the victims and survivors of that terrible storm. Raitt made another, more difficult, dedication shortly after when she dedicated “Nick of Time” to her parents whom she recently lost. While her voice didn’t crack once, she could be seen wiping tears away as she sang. The emotion that came through in her voice throughout the show frequently had members of the audience wiping away tears of their own. Despite this she got the crowd up on their feet and dancing several times throughout the night with songs like “Something to Talk About” and my personal favorite “Papa Come Quick” off of her Luck of the Draw album.
An emotionaly charged and highly energetic show came to an end with Keb Mo joining Raitt and her band on stage. Their enthusiastic and playful cover of Wilson Pickett’s 634–5789 was an upbeat way to send the crowd off into the night.
Energy: A- Sound: A- Muscianship: A Stage Presence: A Set/Light Show: B+
Blues-rocker Bonnie Raitt is currently touring to promote her latest album, Silver Lining.
On 5 June 2002, Raitt’s tour made a stop at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado. The Rocks provided the perfect stage for the fiery Raitt, reflecting her glowing presence in kind.
Jon Cleary and the Absolute Gentlemen opened for Raitt for a night of feel-good music and just plain fun. Cleary and his boys had an already almost-full amphitheater rocking by the time my companion and I arrived. We climbed the mountain and got through security in time to catch the band’s last few songs. It was enough time, however, to get a good healthy dose of Cleary’s undiluted New Orleans funk. The band was tight and the music was right.
Then Bonnie Raitt gave the audience a sneak preview, sauntering on stage with her guitar to join the opening band for a tune called “Best Friend”. It was a performance in which Raitt’s musicianship and enthusiasm showed through. Though it was a planned move, you got the feeling that she just couldn’t wait to get on stage, so she came on out. It was a sweet teaser, all the more satisfying because the promise was about to be fulfilled. Jon Cleary and the Absolute Gentleman wrapped up the set with their trademark tune “More Hipper”.
Less than 20 minutes later, Raitt returned to the stage, primed and pumped up for an audience whose excitement she had already spurred. Wielding her guitar like a magic wand, Raitt opened with the tune “Love Letter”, followed by a Jon Cleary song, “Fool’s Game”.
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