Bonnie Raitt sits on the drum riser, her guitar in her lap. Her head is down, her wild hair shining in the stage lights. She nods along, snapping fingers as the band plays around her. She’s out of the spotlight, just a member of the band, not leading it.
It’s an odd turn.
Moments before, she’d wowed the crowd inside Warnors Theatre with “Angel in Montgomery.” It was the hit, the one people wanted to hear, and she delivered. The song got a standing ovation – the second of five she received for the night.
Taken with the rest of the 90-minute performance, the moments show the plurality of Raitt, and why she’s such an icon.
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There was Raitt the bad-ass, the sultry blues guitarist, who even at 67 years old looks impossibly cool pulling slide licks off her low-slung Fender Strat.
There was Raitt the hit maker, who had the crowd up and dancing to “Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About.”
There was Raitt the rocker, Raitt the country songstress and also Raitt, the voice.
That last one, you might have overlooked, until she did “Angel of Montgomery” and later “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”
The final moments of that second song – Raitt holding out the last note of the last phrase as the spotlight dims, leaving her in the dark as the piano plays out – was as moving as any moment I’ve seen on stage and a reminder of the power and soul in Raitt’s voice.
The band did several songs after that, and a full encore, but for me, the night ended, rather perfectly, right there.
▪ Just the mention of Bonnie’s name from opener Jude Johnstone got a crazy round of applause.
▪ Johnstone played a strong if slightly understated set. It’s obvious she’s solid as a songwriter and the minimalism in her performance – she sat at a piano and sang, backed by a cello – was a reminder of how powerful a clear, simple melody can be. But there were points in the 45-minute set that felt more like a recital – with Johnstone reading sheet music off a music stand – than a performance.
▪ Black skinny jeans are the pant of choice of guitarists, regardless of age.
▪ Raitt loves her cover tunes and does them well.
Here, she did a blues-stomp version of INXS’ “Need You Tonight,” Los Lobos’ “ “Shakin' Shakin’ Shakes,” Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” and the more obscure J.B. Lenoir blues tune “Round and Round.”