Raitt rips it up at Britt By Bill Varble - Mail Tribune
September 02, 2008
Bonnie Raitt allowed as how it was nice to be back — especially without the chainsaws. That was a reference to 1996, when Raitt and Jackson Browne played a benefit for environmental groups at the Britt Pavilion, although it wasn't a Britt show, and were greeted by the angry snarl of chainsaws fired up by protesting timber industry supporters.
The only roar at Britt Monday night was applause.
Raitt is as committed to green causes as ever. Her tour bus runs on biofuels, and she made quick pitches for locally grown foods and the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion. But the main pitch was music old and new. Raitt and her band played Britt as part of a late-summer swing that will see the singer visit some 20 U.S. and Canadian venues, many of them for benefits.
Raitt looked out at the capacity crowd — the show had been sold out since April — and said she guessed it was her and her band or Shakespeare, a reference to the nearby Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
"Me and Will," she deadpanned, "we go way back."
She goes way back with songs like "Are You Ready for a Thing Called Love," which found her playing spirited slide. And songs like the mellow, moody "Rainy Day Man," for which she traded in one of her many Fender Stratocasters for an acoustic guitar.
Some musicians are musician's musicians, others are stars. Raitt is both. It's weird now to remember that she spent almost two decades toiling as a semi-famous blueswoman before she broke through to mainstream stardom.
She came of age in late '60s Cambridge, where Harvard students soaked up folk music and protests along with education. But she was already into the blues, and when she left college to gig professionally, she soon wound up opening for blues giants such as Fred McDowell, Son House, Muddy Waters. Her music always stood out for its grit. Plus she could trade licks with the meanest guitar slingers around.
Her breakthrough came in 1989 with "Nick of Time." The album netted three Grammy Awards that year, and her duet with John Lee Hooker on his "The Healer" won another.
For an understanding of both sides of Raitt, listen to her Monday on "Your Good Thing," a sultry blues on which she sings:
I don't have to beg you to hold me,/somebody else will./You don't have to love me when I want it,/no, 'cause somebody else will.
Raitt sells a lyric as well as anybody. Lyrical sales Monday night covered ground from Toots and the Maytals to a new song by Raitt's keyboardist, Jon Cleary. I don't know the title, but it should be "I Feel Happy When I Get the Blues." Cleary is not only a superb keyboardist but a capable singer who also doubles (triples?) on percussion here and there.
Or check out the old Sippie Wallace standard "Mighty Tight Woman," a longtime Raitt staple delivered as a deliciously nasty blues with Raitt accompanying herself on slide acoustic guitar.
"Papa Come Quick" was a infectious, bouncy rocker.
For John Prine's "Angel From Montgomery" Raitt brought out Curtis Salgado, whose band had opened the show with a strong set that featured Salgado sounding as good or better than ever. Salgado, an Oregon native (Eugene) has paid some dues and come through with his pipes intact. He has a new CD out and a band of sharp, young players. Like Raitt, he sells a lyric. Raitt said they go way back, her and Curtis like her and Will.
Raitt dedicated "Angel" to her mother. Salgado played mouthharp, but the two did not sing together. Raitt gave the song a curiously downbeat but deceptively powerful treatment, and the crowd responded with a long, standing ovation.
Gordon Kennedy's "I Will Not be Broken" took on an anthemic quality:
That was then this is now/Found my way back here somehow./I knew you'd have to let me go/I told you once I told you so. Kim Wilson's "I Believe I'm in Love With You" rocked so hard in taking the show home before a deadline caused a reviewer to miss the encore that you didn't want it to end.