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Roots legend Raitt runs emotional gamut
Grammy-winning guitarist delivers the blues, ballads and banter at the Burt

on October 1, 2023 No comments
By Eva Wasney

It started with a standing ovation.

And by the end of Bonnie Raitt’s sold-out concert at Burton Cummings Theatre Saturday night, the excited crowd had risen three more times for the acclaimed roots artist.

Raitt, 73, is on the tail end of a two-year international tour in support of Just Like That…, an award-winning 2022 album that has further cemented the American entertainer’s legendary status.

Sporting a sparkly green top and her signature hairdo — big red curls with a shock of grey — the commanding vocalist grooved her way through a playful and wide-ranging hour-and-40-minute set.

Before getting into the music, Raitt took a moment to call attention to the orange “Every Child Matters” banners hanging in front of the drum kit. She had visited the Canadian Museum for Human Rights earlier in the day and described feeling heartened by the local turnout for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Many in the audience were wearing orange.

Winnipeg was well represented on the Burt stage Saturday.

Raitt kicked things off with Made Up Mind and some effusive praise for local roots act the Bros. Landreth. The song — a jammy cover of a Bros. original — earned Raitt the Grammy Award for Best Americana Performance last year. Brothers and bandmates Dave and Joey Landreth were unfortunately not in attendance due to their own touring schedule.

Concert Review

Bonnie Raitt

with Royal Wood

Saturday, Sept. 30

Burton Cummings Theatre

Attendance: 1,600,

★★★★ out of five stars

Winnipeg-born keyboardist Glenn Patscha, one-fifth of Raitt’s tight backing band, also got plenty of time in the spotlight — and deservedly so.

As a teen, Patscha moved to New Orleans to study piano under jazz icon Ellis Marsalis, and has recorded and toured with the likes of Levon Helm and Sheryl Crow. The headliner remarked several times how lucky she was to have him in the ensemble.

Sporting a sparkly green top and her signature hairdo — big red curls with a shock of grey — Bonnie Raitt grooved her way through a playful and wide-ranging hour-and-40-minute set © Dwayne Larson

Raitt is an artist who wields compliments freely and frequently. She spoke highly of everyone on stage and behind the scenes — at one point giving a peck on the cheek to a somewhat bewildered stagehand — and gave props to the many artists and songwriters who have inspired her career.

The setlist was an emotional rollercoaster, ranging from spicy, uplifting anthems to mournful bluesy ballads. “I can’t stay in the pit too long,” she remarked.

Shredding on the slide guitar in front of a backdrop made to look like a blue sky, Raitt played nearly as many covers as she did originals, including songs by Bob Dylan, Chaka Khan, INXS and others.

She reminisced about the late John Prine, a longtime friend and collaborator who died of complications from COVID-19 in 2020, before launching into Angel From Montgomery. The song and Prine’s death served as inspiration for the title track of Raitt’s 21st studio album.

Just Like That is a fictionalized account of a real-life story about a mother who meets the recipient of her late son’s donated heart. There were at least a few tears in the audience during the narrative-rich song, which earned Raitt two Grammys for best American roots song and song of the year. She beat out the likes of Beyoncé, Lizzo, Taylor Swift and Harry Styles to win the latter, proving that 52 years after the release of her debut album, Raitt continues to transcend.

Bonnie Raitt kicked things off with Made Up Mind and some effusive praise for local roots act the Bros. Landreth. © Dwayne Larson

Following an enthusiastic encore, the headliner closed with a cover of Bruce Cockburn’s Lovers in a Dangerous Time, accompanied by opener Royal Wood.

Wood, 44, a “Juno-losing” (his words) Toronto singer-songwriter, was also present during Raitt’s last Winnipeg appearance at the Burt in 2017. (She was scheduled to play Canada Life Centre with James Taylor in 2020 but the concert was cancelled owing to the pandemic.)

Wearing an orange T-shirt and with his salt-and-pepper hair tightly cropped, Wood was joined on stage by a pair of dreamy vocalists and a stand-up bass player. His set was full of charming anecdotes about his wife and two young sons, as well as slow, sad love songs old and new; including the perennial wedding tune I’m So Glad, and Armour from his latest album, What Tomorrow Brings.

Royal Wood — yes that’s his real name — returns to Winnipeg next March for a show at the West End Cultural Centre.

Bonnie Raitt in front of a sold-out crowd – Burton Cummings Theatre, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada – Sept. 30, 2023 © James “Hutch” Hutchinson

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Source: © Copyright The Winnipeg Free Press

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Raitt brings legendary chops to festival opener

on July 9, 2014 No comments

by: Jen Zoratti

BIRDS HILL PARK — Back in 2009, when the Winnipeg Folk Festival announced it would be expanding to a five-day format to accommodate the tour routing of Britpop icon Elvis Costello, it seemed like a ballsy move. Even diehard folkies were divided; would five days be too much of a good thing?

Bonnie Raitt headlining the main stage on Wednesday evening at The Winnipeg Folk Festival – July 9, 2014 © Boris Minkevich /Winnipeg Free Press

Five years on, and the Wednesday night opener has become an integrated — and, for the most part, accepted — part of the festival thanks mostly to its promise of a big-draw headliner. And who fits that bill better than the first lady of blues, Bonnie Raitt?

The flame-haired, 10-time Grammy winner kicked off the 41st Winnipeg Folk Festival with the slinky, sexy Used to Rule The World and a slow-burning take on Gerry Rafferty’s Right Down the Line, both off her acclaimed 2012 album Slipstream.

At 64, Raitt’s bedroom drawl has aged like a fine wine. Her vocal delivery is effortless, even on athletic R&B numbers such as 1979’s Your Good Thing (Is About to End). That legendary voice is matched only by her virtuosic skills as a slide guitarist — which she also makes look so easy and fun. Raitt always had a mischievous little smirk tugging at the corner of her mouth. It’s a singular pleasure watching a musician who has a great time performing.

She brought things back to this decade, serenading the rapt crowd with the tender ballad Not Cause I Wanted To, another cut from Slipstream, under a cotton-candy sky. Even seated, she’s still a commanding presence.

Raitt pulled from all over her catalogue; 2002’s No Gettin’ Over You was followed up with a somewhat perfunctory performance of her 1991 smash Something To Talk About, tossed off mid set. (Anne Murray apparently passed on the Shirley Eikhard-penned song in 1986 after her producers told her it wouldn’t be a hit).

Bonnie Raitt headlining the main stage on Wednesday evening at The Winnipeg Folk Festival – July 9, 2014 © Boris Minkevich /Winnipeg Free Press

When Raitt was invested — really invested — it showed. Angel from Montgomery, dedicated to her mother, was heart-rending — especially with the addition of fellow mainstage performer Amy Helm, daughter of the late, great Levon Helm, on harmonies.

She turned things over to Hammond organist Mike Finnigan — a legend in his own right who has toured or sessioned with everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Etta James to Leonard Cohen — for the down ’n’ dirty blues number I Got News for You. “YouTube him, baby,” Raitt said. The sexy strut of Love Sneakin’ Up On You followed, closing the main set on a high.

“It took us a long time to get back here,” Raitt said when she returned for the encore; she last played Folk Fest in 1988. “I save this song for this part because it’s really hard to follow,” she added, before launching into the devastating ballad I Can’t Make You Love Me. “That song means as much to me as it does to you,” she said. It was chased with the stunning Dimming of the Day.

But Raitt didn’t leave us on a sad note. The playful, funk-inflected Love Letter closed the show.

Indeed, it was all about the powerhouse ladies on Wednesday night. Helm wowed with her big, soulful voice. Backed by her band the Handsome Strangers, the singer/songwriter turned in a rollicking, blues and gospel-kissed set chock full of hip-swinging highlights, including the groove-based Sky’s Falling which bled into a cover of Ann Peebles’ 1974 single I Can’t Stand the Rain — which a certain generation will know from its sample in Missy Elliott’s The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly). Her emotional cover of the Band’s The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down would have done her dad proud. She closed her slightly overlong set with a high-energy rendition of Sam Cooke’s (Ain’t That) Good News.

Before Raitt took the stage, another singer/songwriter with a musical pedigree performed a tweener set. Sarah Lee Guthrie — daughter of Arlo and granddaughter of Woody — and husband, Johnny Irion, make for a harmonious folk duo, but their intimate, acoustic tunes would be more affecting on a smaller stage. (They play a concert at Little Stage on Saturday.) Texas bluesman Guy Forsyth, who played a tweener set earlier in the evening, is another artist to see on a daytime stage.

Hometown boys the Bros. Landreth started off the night with a languid set of mid-tempo blues rockers resplendent with soulful harmonies as golden and warm as the late-evening sun. These guys turned in tight, technically proficient performances, earning a standing ovation from the suppertime crowd. A slot on the Folk Fest main stage is a dream come true for Dave and Joey Landreth, who have been attending the festival since they were kids, volunteering as stagehands for the main stage alongside their father, veteran musician Wally Landreth. “This is quite a different view,” Joey said, surveying the crowd.

The main stage gig is another high in a year full of them for this emerging act; the Bros. Landreth has three 2014 Western Canadian Music Award nominations and the ink is drying on a deal with U.S. imprint Slate Creek Records.

Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite headline the Folk Fest main stage on Thursday night. Cara Luft, Chic Gamine, Danny Barnes, the Wood Brothers and Michael Bernard Fitzgerald also perform. Music starts at 6 p.m.

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper’s local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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Source: © Copyright Winnipeg Free Press

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