Review date: 30th May 2016
Reviewed by: Simon Redley
Location: Symphony hall, Birmingham, UK
When I recently spoke to Bonnie Raitt about her current hit album Dig In Deep, she told me it was “thrilling” to be writing again, but “always scary;” because she always doubted whether she was coming up with something good enough.
Well you can bet your sweet bippy she did. She said she set out to write some real “grooves” that she could enjoy playing with her band on stage.
Having recently caught a show on her UK tour, I can honestly say the material is far more upbeat and rockin’ than the four previous times I have seen her, and it really does groove. Of course, there are still the hit ballads she is known for.
She has never sounded in better voice or played that ol’ slide guitar of hers with more sublime skills. Palpable chemistry between Bonnie and her crack band too. George Marinelli on guitar, James “Hutch” Hutchinson on bass, Ricky Fataar on drums, and Mike Finnigan on keyboards.
Great sound, world class acoustics at that venue helped and gorgeous lighting; complete with a backdrop showing a vast sky full of clouds, which changed colour with each song; from a stormy setting to a blazing red sunset and sunrise. Spotlights picking her out nicely too.
She kicks off her one hour and 55 minute set with a cool cover of the INXS hit Need You Tonight from the latest CD, her 20th album. The multi-Grammy winner and Hall Of Famer and her band really let loose on the The Los Lobos song, Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes nailing a dirty killer groove.
She pays tribute to the memory of Gerry Rafferty with his song, Right Down The Line, from 2012’s triumphant Slipstream, and she also remembers her late Little Feat friend, Lowell George on a Chris Smithers song.
Bonnie’s voice never loses a thing as the years roll by. At 66-years-old, there’s a wee bit of a growl which adds to the sassiness, but she can still deliver a sweet, spine tingling ballad that’ll poke you in the solar plexus.
Such as her smash hit, I Can’t Make You Love Me, later covered by Adele. A show stopper tonight, Bonnie Raitt is always totally emotionally invested in the songs she sings and inhabits brought-in material as though she lived it and wrote it.
Ms Raitt has that rare ability to make it sound like she is singing just for you, no else is in the room. Add to that her other-worldly slide guitar skills. What’s not to like?
The 1991 big hit that revitalised her career, Something To Talk About, sounding as fresh as ever. The Stones style rocker The Comin’ Round Is Going Through from the current album was bang on, sizzling slide from Bonnie and George tearing his Telecaster a new one.
An hour into the set, The John Prine-penned Angel From Montgomery gets the loudest applause of the night thus far.
As a reviewer and as a huge admirer of her work, I am sat in awe of this woman, to be quite honest. But my mind wanders to two nights before, when I was a few feet from John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten sounding like a burning pet shop. What a flipping contrast! One’s an incredible singer, the other sells butter!
“Thank you Birmingham, such a beautiful hall to play. I keep trying to turn it into a road house!” she jokes. Before the three-song encore, she and the band get a deserved standing ovation and again, as they take their bows at the end of a glorious night.
Well, you really did dig in deep tonight, Bonnie. An international treasure for more than forty-five years. She really should have a preservation order slapped on her.
- Special mention to Bonnie’s support act Jarrod Lawson from Texas. Superb solo Americana artist who is one to watch.