Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Bonnie Raitt: Gypsy in Me

Bonnie Raitt’s audience is aging but she isn’t. Between songs before a sold out Kennedy Center Concert Hall this weekend, she joked about her past and expressed amazement at still having fun making music.

“When I started doing this at 21, I never thought I would still being doing it at 66. But then I never thought Donald Trump would be running for President.” To that, a fan shouted: “Bonnie for President.” It would have been a landslide.

Raitt’s nearly two-hour concert was a walk down memory lane with side trips to songs from her new album, “Dig In Deep.” Against a Hotel California set, she rocked, crooned, mourned lost loves, played the blues, celebrated gospel music and kept up a running commentary. Recalling she was last at the Kennedy Center for an honors tribute to Buddy Guy, she noted, “Definitely not a juke joint this place.”

Her greatest hits seemed as fresh as the DC Cherry blossoms (which she had toured earlier): Something To Talk About, Working on a Love Letter, Right Down the Line, and a nearly acoustic version of Angel from Montgomery that sent chills down your spine.
After doing a similar lament from her new album, Undone, written by Bonnie Bishop, she quipped, "It was a lot of pain there. But I have learned after all these years I don’t  have to live every lyric.”

Raitt is one of the few performers who can segue smoothly from Sippie Wallace’s, I’m A Mighty Tight Woman to a Zimbabwean spiritual, Help Me Lord I’ m Feeling Low.  Often her transitions are respectful memories of songwriters and performers. Or she has a statement to make: “Money and politics so pissed me off, I had to do this one: Ain’t Gonna Take It. Then Shake it, Shake it, Shakin, carried its anti-nuclear power plant refrain: “Oh it makes me tremble.”

Her bandmates, including George Marinelli on guitars, Mike Finnigan on Hammond B-3 and piano, James Hutchinson on bass and  Ricky Fataar on drums are so good they distract your eyes from the star. That is, until, you hear this rippling riff and you realize: Whoa, that’s coming from Bonnie’s bottleneck guitar, of which she is a master. After all, she explained,“I did learn from John Hammond.”

This area has become a favorite of hers, thanks to the boost she and groups like Little Feat got from progressive radio station WHFS. “In DC people came to see us whether we had a Grammy or not.”

Her encore set captured the conflict of her music and everyone’s emotional roller coaster. I Can’t Make You Love Me (which of course we did) followed by That’s Just Love Sneaking Up On You.  With that the Gypsy Lady was on back on the luxury bus for the summer tour.