Bonnie Raitt Beams at The Mann

Lucinda Williams opens great night at Philly’s nonprofit performing arts center

When you visit the website of the Mann Center of the Performing Arts, the first chiron flashing on your screen reads “The Mann is music”. While this is followed by multiple other pronouncements, music is what ruled last night at Philadelphia’s prominent outdoor nonprofit performing arts venue. Great music, delivered by Bonnie Raitt, one of my all-time favorite artists, and her special guest Lucinda Williams who opened the beautiful night.

My decision to see Raitt again was relatively last minute, since at the time I already had tickets for three other shows in June. Until then, I had never planned to go to four concerts by “big artists” during the same month. I may be a music nut, but that’s certainly a pace I cannot maintain, and it’s not just because of high ticket prices, though the latter are a key factor!

Fun at The Mann with great music, nice view of Philly and gourmet pizza!

Before getting to Bonnie Raitt, I’d like to say a few words about Lucinda Williams. Until I saw the bill included the Americana singer-songwriter, who is a few years younger than Raitt and started her recording career in 1979, I had only been familiar with her name. The title of her fifth and to date best-selling studio album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (such a great image!) also rang a distant bell.

Over her now 43-year-and-counting recording career, Williams has released 14 studio albums, one live record, two video albums and 20-plus singles – not exactly a massive catalog, given the long period. Her most recent album Good Souls Better Angels appeared in April 2020. In November of that same year, Williams had a stroke at her home in Nashville. Fortunately, she recovered, though last night she still seemed to have some mobility challenges and did not play guitar. But Williams still delivered what I thought was a very solid performance.

Here’s Drunken Angel, a tune off the aforementioned Car Wheels on a Gravel Road album. When Williams announced the song last evening she said she wrote it in honor of her friend Blaze Foley, a Texas country singer-songwriter who apparently was prone to drinking and was shot and killed in a bar “over a senseless argument”. Williams also noted Foley had been chasing Townes Van Zandt, “but nobody could keep up with Townes.” Apparently, Foley did become friends with Van Zandt who ended up writing a song about him, Blaze’s Blues.

Before moving on to Bonnie Raitt’s set, let’s do another song Williams performed: You Can’t Rule Me, a nice adaption from a Memphis Minnie composition, which originally was recorded sometime between 1935 and 1941. Williams included it on her most recent album. The blues rock lover in me smiled!

And on to Bonnie Raitt who I had last seen in August 2016 at New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. From the very beginning, it felt as if time had stood still. Raitt looked and sounded the same as six years ago. The only difference were her set included various songs from her excellent latest album Just Like That…, which came out in April this year and which I previously reviewed here. Raitt started her set with the album’s great opener Made Up Mind. Check out that sweet sound – so good!

In addition to playing five tunes from Just Like That…, Raitt drew from other albums throughout her career, including Luck of the Draw (1991), Nick of Time (1989), Silver Lining (2002), Streetlights (1974), Dig In Deep (2016) and the live release Road Tested (1995). Here’s No Business, a song written by John Hiatt, one of four tracks Raitt played from Luck of the Draw. Raitt, who has recorded various tunes by Hiatt, reiterated her admiration of the great roots rock singer-songwriter.

In addition to Just Like That…, which os my favorite Bonnie Raitt album these days, I’ve always loved Nick of Time. Her 10th studio album brought Raitt on my radar screen in 1989. Let’s do the title track, which she penned. Her commercial breakthrough album is best known for the hit single Thing Called Love, which happens to be another John Hiatt composition. Perhaps the official video featuring American actor Dennis Quaid also helped boost mainstream success. Nick of Time saw Raitt switch from her main instrument to keyboards – nice!

Next, let’s turn to Livin’ For the Ones, another great tune from the Just Like That… album. Raitt wrote the words to music composed by her longtime guitarist George Marinelli. I just love that Stonesy sound!

No Bonnie Raitt show would be complete without Angel From Montgomery, a long-time fan favorite. It was written by John Prine, another songwriter Raitt loves and called out last night. In fact, she dedicated the title track of her new album to Prine, noting the style was inspired by the story-telling songs Prine had written. Angel From Montgomery is included on Raitt’s above-mentioned fourth studio album Streetlights. This is one timeless gem!

This brings me to the final tune I’d like to highlight. I Can’t Make You Love Me, another track from Luck of the Draw, is one of Raitt’s best-known songs. While she has had many great songs over the decades, Raitt has only scored a few mainstream hits. During a recent interview with Zane Lowe for Apple Music, she didn’t seem to mind her relative lack of chart success. In fact, Raitt said after Nick of Time, she had been nervous she would now be measured by that album’s chart performance. Luck of the Draw turned out to be hugely successful as well. I Can’t Make You Love Me, a pop ballad co-written by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin, is one of three songs that made the top 20 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100.

Bonnie Raitt said two things last night, which are among the many reasons I dig her as an artist. She expressed her happiness to be back on the road, noting the long break from touring had been torture. Raitt also stated she has no plans to retire since she enjoys performing. In this context, she called out other artists like Willie Nelson and Mick Jagger, who are no longer 19 years either. She added she hopes to see the Stones, wishing Jagger the best, who recently came down with COVID.

Before wrapping up this post, I’d like to acknowledge Raitt’s fantastic band. Apart from the above-mentioned guitarist George Marinelli, who also sings, the line-up includes Duke Levine (guitar, vocals), Glenn Patscha (keyboards, vocals), James “Hutch” Hutchinson (bass) and Ricky Fataar (drums). Marinelli, Hutchinson and Fataar have worked with Raitt for many years, both on the road and in the studio. For more on each musician, check out their impressive bios on her website.

Here’s Raitt’s setlist from last night:
• Made Up Mind
• Waitin’ for You to Blow
• No Business
• Blame It on Me
• Nick of Time
• Back Around
• Just Like That
• Something to Talk About
• Livin’ for the Ones
• Have a Heart
• Need You Tonight (INXS cover)
• Angel From Montgomery (John Prine cover)
• Burning Down the House (Talking Heads cover)

Encore:
• I Can’t Make You Love Me (Mike Reid cover)
• Not the Only One (Paul Brady cover)

Raitt’s Just Like That… tour is next headed to Boston’s Leader Bank Pallivion (June 17), Tanglewood in Lennox, Mass. (June 18) and New York City’s Beacon Theatre (June 21 and June 22 – both shows are sold out). The full schedule is here. If you like Raitt and can still get a ticket you can afford, I’d highly recommend it. That lady is the real deal!

Sources: Wikipedia; Bonnie Raitt website; Setlist.fm; YouTube

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My Playlist: Bonnie Raitt

While I previously wrote about an amazing Bonnie Raitt show I saw in 2016 and included her in a few other posts, it occurred to me I haven’t done anything related to her recorded music. Considering how highly I think of this lady as a musician and songwriter, this feels like a big miss that is overdue to be corrected.

First a bit of history. Bonnie Lynn Raitt was born on November 8, 1949 in Burbank, Calif. She grew up in a musical family. Her dad was John Raitt, an actor and acclaimed Broadway singer. Bonnie’s mom, Marjorie Haydock, was a pianist and John’s first wife. According to her online bio, Raitt was raised in LA “in a climate of respect for the arts, Quaker traditions, and a commitment to social activism,” all important influences that shaped her future life.

Raitt got into the guitar at the age of eight, after receiving a Stella as a Christmas present. According to an AP story in a local paper, she taught the instrument herself by listening to blues records – yet another example of a self-taught musician who turned out to be exceptional!

Bonnie Raitt 1969

In the late ’60s, Raitt moved to Cambridge, Mass. and started studying Social Relations and African Studies at Harvard/Radcliffe. She also began her lifetime involvement as a political activist. “I couldn’t wait to get back to where there were folkies and the antiwar and civil rights movements,” she notes in her online bio. “There were so many great music and political scenes going on in the late ’60s in Cambridge.”

Three years after entering college, Raitt decided to drop out to pursue music full-time. She already had become a frequent performer on the local coffeehouse scene, exploring slide guitar blues and other styles. Soon thereafter, she opened shows for surviving blues legends, such as Fred McDowell, Sippie Wallace, Son House, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. Word spread about her great talent, which led to her first record contract with Warner Bros.

Bonnie Raitt_Bonnie Raitt

Since her 1971 eponymous debut, Raitt has released 16 additional studio albums, three compilations and one live record. Over her now 45-year-plus career, she has received 10 Grammy Awards. She is also listed at no. 50 and no. 89 in Rolling Stone’s lists of 100 Greatest Singers Of All Time and 100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time, respectively.

Like many artists, Raitt’s life wasn’t all easy peasy. She struggled with alcohol and drug abuse but became sober in 1987. “I thought I had to live that partying lifestyle in order to be authentic, but in fact if you keep it up too long, all you’re going to be is sloppy or dead,” Raitt told Parade magazine in April 2012, adding, “I was one of the lucky ones.” Yep – time to get to some music!

Mighty Tight Woman is from Raitt’s 1971 debut record – just love that tune, which was penned by Sippie Wallace and recorded in 1929.

In September 1974, Raitt released her fourth studio album Streetlights. One of the gems on that record and frankly Raitt’s entire catalog is Angel From Montgomery, a country tune written and first recorded by John Prine.

Among the early ’60s pop songs I’ve always dug is Runaway by Del Shannon, a tune he co-wrote with keyboarder Max Crook for his 1961 debut Runaway With Del Shannon. Raitt’s version of the tune, which is included on her sixth studio album Sweet Forgiveness from 1977, is a brilliant cover with a cool bluesy soul touch. Here’s a great live performance, which apparently was captured at the time the album came out.

In addition to recording songs from other artists, Raitt also writes her own music. Here is Standin’ By The Same Old Love from 1979’s The Glow, which prominently features Raitt seductive electric slide guitar work.

Can’t Get Enough just about sums up how I oftentimes feel about Raitt’s music. Co-written by her and keyboarder Walt Richmond, the track appears on Raitt’s 1982 record Green Light. I just love the cool reggae style groove of this track and the saxophone accents.

Raitt’s 10th studio album Nick Of Time perhaps is the equivalent to Carole King’s Tapestry. In fact, even though King’s music is quite different and unlike Raitt she’s a full-blown singer-songwriter, Raitt does remind me of King in another aspect. Like King, she has that warm and timeless quality to her music, a rare gift. While better known for its title track and Thing Called Love, Nick Of Time includes another track that is one of my favorites from Raitt: Love Letter. The tune was written by another Bonnie, Bonnie Hayes, who according to Wikipedia is an American singer-songwriter, musician and record producer.

Oh, and did I mention Raitt also knows how to perform beautiful ballads? Here’s I Can’t Make You Love Me from 1991’s Luck Of The Draw. The tune was co-penned by country music artist Mike Reid and country songwriter Allen Shamblin. Following is what appears to be the official music video.

Another powerful ballad Raitt recorded for her 13th studio album Fundamental from 1998 is Lover’s Will. This tune is from John Hiatt, one of Raitt’s favorite writers. He recorded and released it as a mid-tempo track in 1983 on his studio album Riding With The King. It’s beautiful how Raitt slowed it down, making it her own, similar to Runaway!

Used To Rule The World is from Slipstream, which appeared in April 2012. Widely acclaimed, Raitt’s 16th studio release became her highest charting album in 18 years, climbing to no. 6 on the U.S. Billboard 200, and hitting no. 1 on both the Top Rock Albums and Top Blues Albums charts. The tune, which is another great example of Raitt’s feel for groove, was written by Randall Bramblett, a singer-songwriter, session keyboarder and touring musician. Here’s a nice live performance.

When it comes to an artist like Raitt with so many great tunes and such a long career, it’s hard to keep a playlist to ten tunes, but that’s the maximum I’m setting myself. I’d like to conclude with Gypsy In Me from Raitt’s most recent studio album Dig In Deep, which appeared in February 2016. The song is a co-write by Gordon Kennedy and Wayne Kirkpatrick, two Nashville-based songwriters and musicians.

While I haven’t seen any hints about a new album, it looks like 2018 is going to be a busy year for Raitt. Her tour schedule lists a steady stream of U.S. gigs from mid-March to the beginning of July, immediately followed by various concerts in Europe. Among the highlights are an opening/special guest appearance for James Taylor & His All-Star Band during his U.S. tour from May to the beginning of July, and Paul Simon’s farewell concert in London’s Hyde Park on July 15.

Sources: Wikipedia; Bonnie Raitt official website; Bonnie Raitt discovers her roots in Scotland (AP/Lawrence Journal-World, Jul 14, 1991); Parade; YouTube

Bonnie Raitt at NJPAC

Bonnie Raitt is one my favorite artists, and I finally got a chance to see her live.

Yesterday (Aug 13), the wait was finally over. It was time to see Bonnie Raitt at New Jersey Performing Arts Center!

During the week leading up to the show, I had listened to her music pretty much whenever I got a chance to get in the mood. And with a 45-year professional career and 17 studio albums, there is a lot to listen to!

A good friend of mine who has been to various Bonnie Raitt concerts over the years had highly recommended that I go see her. He was right – the show was absolutely amazing!

Bonnie presented a mix of new and old songs, including a few of her previous hits. She started off with her cover of the INXS song Need You Tonight, which appears on her latest excellent album, Dig In Deep. Throughout the show, she also played various other songs from that album including Unintended Consequence of Love and Gypsy In Me. Another cover included Burning Down the House, the 1983 hit from the Talking Heads. In my opinion, it’s even better than Need You Tonight.

Perhaps the best known hit songs she played were Something To Talk About and the beautiful ballad I Can’t Make You Love Me, both from Bonnie’s 1991 album, Luck of the Draw. I was a bit surprised and disappointed that she didn’t play material from Nick of Time, such as Thing Called Love, the title song and Love Letter. At least I didn’t recognize any songs from the 1989 Grammy Award winning album. She did perform one of my other favorite songs, Can’t Get Enough (from 1982’s Green Light). 

As I had expected, Bonnie’s slide guitar playing was superb! But I have to say I was even more intrigued by the songs she played on acoustic guitar. The highlight in this context and perhaps of the entire night was Angel from Montgomery, from her fourth studio album Streetlights, released in 1974. BTW, Bonnie’s voice live sounds just as great as recorded. I would also like to acknowledge her fantastic band: Ricky Fataar (drums), George Marinelli (guitars), James Hutchinson (bass) and Mike Finnigan (keyboards).

Another shout-out is in order for Bonnie’s opening act, Richard Thompson Trio. Thompson, a founding member of the Fairport Convention, is an outstanding British electric and acoustic guitarist. I have to admit I’m not familiar with his music, but I certainly enjoyed what I heard! The drummer and bassist who performed with Thompson were excellent as well.

Notably, Bonnie asked Thompson to come back to the stage and play a song with her. You could clearly see the admiration she has for him. I think the gesture also shows what a class act Bonnie Raitt is when it comes to acknowledging other artists.

Here’s a clip of Raitt’s entire gig.

Set List

Need You Tonight (INXS cover)

Used to Rule the World (Randall Bramblett cover)

No Business

All Alone with Something to Say

Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes (Los Lobos cover)

Not the Only One (Paul Brady cover) (with Richard Thompson)

Round and Round (J.B. Lenoir cover)

I Feel the Same (Chris Smither cover)

Hear Me Lord (Oliver Mtukudzi cover)

Something to Talk About

The Comin’ Round Is Going Through

Angel From Montgomery (John Prine cover)

Don’t Answer the Door (B.B. King cover) (Mike Finnegan, vocal)

Gypsy in Me

Unintended Consequence of Love

I Believe I’m in Love With You (The Fabulous Thunderbirds cover)

What You’re Doin’ to Me

Encore:

I Can’t Make You Love Me (Mike Reid cover)

Burning Down the House (Talking Heads cover)

Louise (Paul Siebel cover)

Your Sweet and Shiny Eyes

Note: This post was updated on November 15, 2020 with above clip and setlist.

Sources: Wikipedia; Setlist.fm; YouTube