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Heck Of A Show Bonnie Raitt’s Stage Performance Is Worthy Of Role-Model Status - Rocking Talent And Wholesome Fun

Don Adair Correspondent

Bonnie Raitt could be the poster child for American values.

She has persevered through hard times, battled down her demons and worked hard to make the most of modest talent. She is actively concerned about people who are less fortunate than she and promotes the careers of elderly musicians who have been treated poorly by the music industry.

Saturday night at The Gorge, she even encouraged people to register to vote.

Granted, Raitt is something of a throwback here in the reactionary ‘90s - she’s way too liberal tomake Newt Gingrich’s register of Regular Americans - but it’s hard to imagine a better role model for America’s daughters and sons.

It could be merely a heck of a public relations ploy, but Raitt seems to be the real thing.

She puts on a heck of a show, too.

Raitt took the stage earlier than usual Saturday, promising to try to beat an oncoming storm. Then she and her six-piece band eased into a well-played, 105-minute show that de-emphasized her big hits in favor of old favorites, well-chosen covers and a few new pieces.

The covers were interesting: It was fun hearing her sing John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” again, but more remarkable was her decision to close her regular set with the Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” and the show with an NRBQ song, “Green Light.”

Wrapping up the first set, she brought the crowd to its feet with a sizzling, funkified “Come to Me,” slid into “Love Sneaking Up On You” and segued unexpectedly into a gutsy, driving version of “Burning Down the House” that had ‘em dancing in the aisles.

Two encores later, she left the stage for good with a Stonessaturated treatment of “Green Light.”

But it was a lovely, mid-show acoustic set that truly showcased Raitt’s most endearing - and enduring - strengths. Accompanied by only her bass player, she led off with “Love Me Like a Man,” which she highlighted with a beautiful finger-picked slide guitar solo. Then she called out her “back-porch band” - percussion, drums, harp and bass for a pair of Mississippi Fred McDowell tunes, a gentle rendition of Paul Seibel’s “Louise” and a cover of Richard Thompson’s wistful “Dimming of the Day.”

“I want to thank Richard Thompson for all the great music he’s given us,” she said. It was one of many tributes she paid to songwriters during the evening.

Earlier, she recognized her guest artists, R&B pioneers Ruth Brown and Charles Brown, inviting them out to join her on the rollicking classic “You Made Your Move Too Soon.”

Pianist and singer Charles Brown, an old smoothie if there ever was one, opened the show with a set that - 45 years after his heyday - proved he can still swing with a vengeance, and Ruth Brown - no relation - blew the crowd away with a vigorous set that also belied her years. Even the raunchiest, double-entendre R&B grew out of the church choir, and Brown’s rowdy performance was a textbook example.

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Bonnie Raitt Saturday, July 8, The Gorge

This sidebar appeared with the story: Bonnie Raitt Saturday, July 8, The Gorge

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