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Bonnie Raitt was great in Vancouver


Forget her sheer talent, voluminous red hair, and soothingly smooth and craggy voice. Bonnie Raitt made her Friday night concert in Vancouver, BC a delight by her inclusive, humble presence. What other lead singer would introduce a roadie, then invite him to play guitar on one of her band’s songs?


Throughout her two-hour show at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Raitt readily gave herself over to her bandmates to let each one shine. Keyboardist Mike Finnigan shared amazing lead vocals with throaty blues on two songs. Two of her musicians – James Hutchinson on bass and drummer Ricky Fataar – have played with her for 30 years, displaying obvious abilities to quickly match Raitt’s improvisational choices. Her four-piece group, including guitarist George Marinelli, were clearly having fun with Raitt as a good friend. “I’ve missed you guys,” she told them.


Raitt’s new tunes, from her latest CD Slipstream, included a great reggae version of Gerry Rafferty’s Right Down the Line (I like it better than the original) and Dylan’s heartbreak song Standing in the Doorway. The latter left Raitt choked up; she shared that when that stops happening, she’ll stop playing music. Tears were pouring down the face of the woman seated next to me.


Raitt received numerous standing ovations throughout the night. Her 1989 CD Nick of Time is one of my favorites and she played three songs from it: Thing Called Love; Have a Heart; and I Will Not Be Denied.


I loved that Raitt was so honest and direct with the nearly sold-out audience. Defying society’s age hangups, especially for women, she readily admitted that she was 62. She expressed gratitude for the audience’s respect, stating that she never once saw someone’s cell phone light appear in the darkness. She reapplied lipstick several times throughout the night, sharing that she was too cheap to have someone else do her makeup and was horrified when she saw what she had looked like in a previous video.


I’ve admired Raitt for decades, not just for her powerhouse female presence in a male-dominated business, but for her activism in so many areas, from environmental protection to formerly providing sanctuary for El Salvadoreans during their nation’s war. (I saw her in Seattle at an unadvertised show about 25 years ago to raise money for the Sanctuary movement, which helped El Salvadoreans leave their country safely.) During the Vancouver concert, she asked: “Have you heard that we’re having an auction, an auction for president?”


As an encore, Raitt invited local blues rocker Colin James to join her band onstage for a few songs, along with opening act John Lee Sanders. I found keyboardist Sanders and his band ho-hum, more suited for a small dance club than a large venue like the Queen E., but I did appreciate his soulful sax-playing.


I’m grateful that Raitt now has her own label Redwing Records, which gives her greater power and control over her work within the music industry. I don’t much care that Rolling Stone has made her #89 on its list of 100 greatest guitarists of all time. For me, she embodies a compelling feminine mix of grace, grit, and grassroots generosity. As Will Hermes said four months ago in Rolling Stone: “Bonnie Raitt is such a class act it’s easy to forget she’s kind of badass.”


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August 12, 2012 at 2:23 pm Comments (0)