Bonnie Raitt with special guest Paul Brady
Hard Rock Live at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino
November 30, 2013
Better than: Ever?
Bonnie Raitt is as feisty as ever at the age of 64. Here is a woman who was nurtured early on by such immortal legends as John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Fred McDowell, Sippie Wallace and Son House, all of whom shared with her the lesson that age only enhances your ability to play the blues.
See also: The Fascinating Life of Bonnie Raitt
Her enduring vigor gives ample hope to a steadily aging group of baby boomers, many of whom were represented by her Hard Rock Live audience this past Saturday night. It's appropriate then to add to Raitt's many achievements other than her role of pied piper, leading her fans and admirers gracefully towards their later years -- multiple Grammy winner, best-selling musician, tireless activist. Indeed, with her ultra-slim build and signature mass of flaming red wavy hair, Raitt looks nearly identical to her younger self of 25 years ago, still sashaying confidently across the stage, obviously enjoying herself, wailing with a voice that can both coo and command, and playing bottleneck guitar with an impressive authority.
With her longtime band in tow -- guitarist George Marinelli, keyboard player Mike Finnigan, bassist James "Hutch" Hutchinson, and drummer Ricky Fataar -- Raitt ran through a fair sampling of the songs that helped establish her as one of the foremost blues interpreters of contemporary times. Beginning with the funky "Used to Rule the World," the first track from her latest album Slipstream, her signature blend of blues and ballads dominated the proceedings.
Among other things, the setlist proved once again that when it comes to interpreting the work of others -- be it Bob Dylan ("Million Miles," also from her recent album), her heartfelt ballads by Richard Thompson ("Dimming of the Day"), and John Prine ("Angel from Montgomery") or simply any song that allows her to tear up the stage (Gerry Rafferty's "Right Down the Line," "Something to Talk About" penned by Shirley Eikhard) -- Bonnie's ability to make these songs her own has proven a critical cornerstone of her career.
To her credit, and despite her international success and stardom, Raitt has never compromised when it comes to maintaining the purity of her blues. For all its twists and turns, the set held to a basic blues tenor, each song echoing the heartfelt emotion that's been at the center of her material since day one. There's never any doubt that she's investing the entire sum of her sentiment, and when she mentioned on more than one occasion she was dedicating a particular selection to a special someone waiting for her back home, the feelings she shared in the song came across as both personal and true.
It also ought to be noted that unlike most performers of a certain pedigree, she declined to include her best known hit (at least to those who remember the '70s), her cover of Del Shannon's "Runaway." Here, then, is an artist who's never been swayed by commercial considerations; it was another testament to her purity of purpose.
Opener and special guest Paul Brady -- a long time staple of the British and Irish folk scene back home, but lesser known on these shores -- opened the concert with a set of fiery acoustic tunes from his own immense catalogue, and was greeted warmly by the then-sparse crowd in place at curtain time.
Brady's got a rugged and powerful voice, and even performing solo, he held the crowd entranced. Songs like "Paradise Is Here," "Blue World," and "The World Is What You Make It" demonstrated the potency of his own pedigree -- which by the way, is well worth time spent investigating -- but it was his closing number, the traditional ballad "Lakes of Pontchartrain" that had the crowd swooning and clinching in his embrace.
Brady was called back to the stage several times to join his hostess, first for the aforementioned "Dimming of the Day," and later to share the lead on his songs she had covered, "Marriage Made in Hollywood" and "Luck of the Draw," one of Raitt's three encores. It's notable that their relationship extends back more than twenty years, and a credit to Raitt's confidence that she continues to generously champion this superb songwriter.
Personal Bias: I enjoyed the opportunity to see Paul Brady, a longtime favorite who, by his own admission, has never performed in South Florida. Although his set was necessarily short, his continued return throughout Raitt's performance offered a nice sampling of his wares.
The Crowd: All over 50 (and possibly 60) but obviously eager and enthralled.
By the way: Hard Rock Live remains one of the great venues to see live music in South Florida, with its terrific sight lines, ample free parking, reasonably priced refreshments, and a consistent tally of great talent coming through its doors. Hooray for Hard Rock once again.