Arts & Entertainment
REVIEW: Bonnie Raitt in Ann Arbor
Veteran shows she's still got it at Summer Fest opener
By Chris Azzopardi
Originally printed 5/24/2012 (Issue 2021 - Between The Lines News)
I still can't find my breath, because Bonnie Raitt - goddess of slide guitar, and heartbreakers - took it away so many times during her Friday night show at Hill Auditorium. In support of her sublime album "Slipstream," her first in seven years, the show was the Ann Arbor Summer Festival's pre-season opener. And with Raitt's delightful candor and history of highly respected songs, it did not disappoint.
Raitt and her longtime band, clear not just from the singer's introductions but from the camaraderie and flawless musicianship, walked onto the stage and opened with "Used to Rule the World," the lead-off song from the her latest. The New Orleans funk jam got the ball rolling, but splendid moments of impeccability kept coming: her admiration on Gerry Rafferty's 1978 "Right Down the Line" spilled over into the hearty performance itself; "Something to Talk About" and "Love Sneakin' Up On You" reconnected me to the days when everyone was, indeed, talking about her; slow-burner "You Can't Fail Me Now" came early on, offering a bluesy ballad that, in retrospect, seems ironic. A fail? No such thing.
Raitt was dead-on and wondrously powerful, really hitting a groove midway and riding it on through to the encore. With just acoustic guitar and Raitt's voice - still an expressive instrument of great warmth and emotionality - turned on the tears during riveting new ballad "Not Cause I Wanted To." She went for the one-two punch, following that tearjerker with a stripped-down version of another emotional juggernaut: "Angel from Montgomery," the John Prine song she made famous and has become as much a part of her career as those flaming locks.
She even made light of them herself. For the balcony folks, she looked up at them, quipping, "I did my roots just for you." Noting that the city has been a favorite spot of hers since 1971, her sentimental reminiscing on Ann Arbor was sweet and genuine. "It's so great to still be coming back here," she gushed. "Thanks for your enthusiasm. Thanks for your loyalty." Casual chitchat, self-deprecating age jokes and lipstick applications also broke up the almost two hours of music in her set list.
Of the two encores, the second being a cover of Van Morrison's "Crazy Love" with opener Marc Cohen (You know him: Cher covered his "Walking with Memphis"), it was the penultimate show-stopper "I Can't Make You Love Me" that was overwhelmingly impressive. Lights dimmed, with Raitt perched on a stool, the iconic heart-to-heart seemed more conversational than its original 1991 recording, as if she were speaking directly to the audience. But it's not like she had to make them love her. Not after a show that reminded us why we did in the first place.
Raitt returns to the area with special guest Mavis Staples on Aug. 16 for a show at the MotorCity Casino Hotel in Detroit. For more information on the Ann Arbor Summer Festival's lineup, visit http://www.annarborsummerfestival.org.