Published on May 20th, 2013 | by Prisha Verrier0
Review: Blues Veteran Bonnie Raitt and Company Rock the PAC
North Charleston Performing Arts Center, May 17
Bonnie Raitt is a rock star. Not in the flashy sense, nor in the outlandish lifestyle sense that has so permeated the music industry over the years. Raitt is a rock star in the classic sense of hard work, guts, and an unrelenting talent.
Taking the stage with her band at North Charleston’s Performing Arts Center on Friday evening, Raitt delivered a phenomenal performance with all the power, finesse, and cool confidence of a professional at the top of her game.
Opening the night with “Down To You” and a heavy, almost reggae rendition of Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line,” (two songs from her latest album, Slipstream, which won the award for Best Americana Album at this year’s Grammy Awards), Raitt traded solos with her longtime friend and guitarist George Marinelli. Their distinctly different styles swirled in union, her warm sound dripping with reverb and seduction while Marinelli bartered with distortion and delay. It was a dance that has been sweetly honed and perfected throughout the years.
The first hum of “Something to Talk About” brought the crowd clamoring to its feet, whooping, clapping, and singing along to every word. Raitt’s voice was as full and strong on this night, just as it was when the smash tune was released more than 20 years ago, with some slight variations and extra drum fills thrown in to keep the song feeling fresh. The ease and musical chemistry between Raitt and her band was impressive — an irrefutable presence that really added to the energy of the show.
“We’re so proud of how well the new album’s doing,” Raitt said. “Makes an old girl feel pretty good. But I couldn’t do it without these great songwriters up here.”
She introduced each member of the ensemble, her ageless face beaming from among her trademark red curls. Marinelli had recorded and toured with such talented folks as Art Garfunkel and Bruce Hornsby, to Vince Gil and the Dixie Chicks. Hammond and Wurlitzer maestro Mike Finnigan previously shared the stage with Etta James and Joe Cochran, and recorded several tracks on the iconic Hendrix album, Electric Ladyland. Bassist James Hutchinson, a Berklee College of Music grad, had been playing with Raitt since 1983. Drummer/multi-instrumentalist Ricky Fataal recorded with the Beach Boys, the Rutles, and John Scofield, and has played in Raitt’s band on and off since the late 1970s.
They all played through a lot of tunes from the new album, including a cover of Bob Dylan’s moody “Million Miles,” the sardonic “Marriage Made in Hollywood,” and the flirty, upbeat “Come To Me” with its island-inspired drum fills and spinning Wurlitzer.
During the ballads, Raitt’s voice bore a vulnerability that brought the PAC to an emotional hush, but it was during the blues and rock tunes that she really electrified. “Thing Called Love” opened with a single, Delta slide line that oozed through Raitt’s fingers and across the captivated crowd, before breaking into a rocking, almost roadhouse version of the classic cover from her 1989 album, Nick of Time, another Grammy Award-winning record.
The funky and rousing “I Feel So Damn Good (I’ll Be Glad When I Get the Blues)” closed the set with its buttery bass line and resonant floor toms, but the crowd wanted more, and they screamed and cheered for the Baroness of Blues to return. And after long enough of a pause, she did just that.
“Thank you, thank you,” Raitt spoke genuinely. “That [applause] sounds so great from up here. And I never take it for granted, being able to do this for forty-three years.”
The band settled into a mellow pace for “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and “Have A Heart,” but upon announcing their final song, Raitt decided to pick up the pace. “I think we should keep it moving,” she laughed. “Those sad songs are about as low as I can get.” And with a spirited smile and self-assurance reserved only for those who have paid their dues, Raitt the rock ‘n’ roll veteran brought down the house with yet another classic, “Love Sneaking Up On You.”
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