Review: Bonnie Raitt @ Burton Cummings Theatre
You would think I was the biggest Bonnie Raitt fan, the way I jumped up and down when her show was announced. The way I held my breath as I fought for a seat as close as I could get to the stage. The way I yelled out “YES!” when I bought second row, centre.
But I’m not a die-hard fan. I don’t own all her records, I don’t know all her songs, I didn’t even know most of the musicians she mentioned tonight.
But I do know this: I’ve had a really crappy couple of years and I had an intense need to be as close as possible to Bonnie Raitt while she sang the Blues.
Tonight, I got what I needed.
Last year was probably one of the hardest years of my life, marked by tremendous loss and three deaths, the most traumatic being the sudden death of my Father. Last year broke me into a billion little pieces.
Last year was the year I finally understood the Blues. Last year was the year the slide guitar spoke to me, intimately. In moments of deep despair and true hopelessness, it sang to me, sweetly, painfully. Like it knew where I was, like it had been there too and this is what that experience sounded like.
It was right.
During that time, I listened to a lot of male Blues artists, but they never really hit the mark with me. I really wanted and needed a woman to sing this heartbreak to me. I needed authenticity in her voice because true pain cannot be auto tuned. I needed someone who’s been there and felt that; someone who could give a voice to that misery.
That woman was Bonnie Raitt. In one afternoon, I bought a bunch of her albums and Bonnie sang and played my pain in the form of notes. While her voice was clear, at times she sang notes that had been dragged through the mud and then scratched onto grungy cocktail napkins.
While I knew the Blues was about pain, I never really realized the power it yields to also uplift out of that pain. I knew tonight, I would probably experience both.
I was a bit concerned when the usher scanned my ticket and told me pictures and video were forbidden during the show. How was I going to write a review without pictures?
Royal Wood opened with “Long Way Out” and I quickly took three pics of the band. I assumed he probably didn’t have enough pull to demand no pictures or video on Bonnie Raitt’s tour and that the no recording policy was probably Bonnie’s idea. I decided to use only pictures of Royal Wood for my review.
The harmonizing was lovely on “Tonight I Will Be Your Guide” and by the third song, Royal Wood reminded us “singing is about sexual confidence” and so we all sang “Forever And Ever”. By the end of that song, I think we were all pretty confident we liked Royal Wood. Or maybe it was just me.
His band left the stage and he played Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love”. It was touching and it made me miss my Husband who was at a swanky gala featuring David Foster. Ordinarily, I would have been at that gala too, but I had already bought a ticket for Bonnie Raitt before the gala date was announced. I made the right decision.
Royal Wood explained the title of his new album (“Ghost Light”) and then told us his Dad died of Alzheimer’s last August. He performed “Photograph” in honor of him and pictures of my own Dad scrolled through my head as he sang.
“Betsy” took the stage. She was “shapely, beautiful and cheap”…and she was a ukulele. Then he gave us some sound insights about relationships, telling us that “relationships are tough because the other person isn’t you.”
Next he told us a story about kissing a girl in the 8th grade who tasted like a battery and then proceeded to sing a song about his divorce. As he stood next to that ghost light with his tiny ukulele, whistling his tune, I couldn’t help but find him downright charming.
It was a solid set. I really enjoyed it.
During intermission the stage hands took down the huge sheet covering half the stage to reveal a back drop of the sky and my heart swelled. I live in Winnipeg, so I KNOW the sky and it always make me swoon.
I was pretty star-struck when Bonnie took the stage and I spent the first few songs (“No Business”, “Need You Tonight” – INXS, “I Knew”) just taking her in and marveling that I was sitting so close.
She spoke about “Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy” and how it was just as relevant today as the day it was written and after the song was over, she mentioned that she loved traveling across Canada, how we’re all so “civilized and believe in science”.
“Take My Love With You” was followed by Bonnie’s grateful words, “I’m glad I don’t have to feel like this anymore” and then right into the rockin’ “Spit Of Love”. After that tune she advised the audience “If it ain’t working, get the hell out…that’s why we’re in Canada.” To which everyone laughed.
The band left Bonnie on stage by herself and she sang Skip James’ “Devil Got My Woman”. It was fantastic and I loved it. It may have been my favourite performance of the night.
“Hear Me Lord” was fun with an island feel and was followed by “Something To Talk About”.
Later in the show Bonnie applied a fresh coat of lipstick and sang “Angel From Montgomery” which received a standing ovation (the song, not the lipstick application – although I’m always amazed at women who can apply lipstick without a mirror).
Organist, Mike Finnigan brought the house down with his BB King cover of “Don’t Answer The Door”. It truly was spectacular and Bonnie and the rest of the band looked quite amazed and proud of him when it was over.
The magic continued with Mike & Bonnie’s duet of “Good Man, Good Woman” and the set ended with “What You’re Doin’ To Me” off the new album “Dig In Deep”.
The encore consisted of five songs and all five received standing ovations.
I found “I Can’t Make You Love Me” emotional. The spotlight kept shining on Mike and quite honestly, he reminded me a lot of my Dad. Roughly the same age, same hair colour, similar mannerisms, etc. Whenever the lights shone on him playing his keyboard, my throat tightened painfully and I fought back tears. Bonnie’s delivery was so moving, near the end of the song I couldn’t hold the tears back any longer and they rolled down my cheeks.
Just before “Your Sweet & Shiny Eyes”, Bonnie thanked us for not using our cell phones because it was so much easier to sing to our faces. She encouraged us to use them during the next song to which I took full advantage. And that’s how I got this shot of Bonnie Raitt.
Sigh…that show was so worth it. When will she come through Winnipeg again? Hopefully sooner rather than later, but it doesn’t really matter. I have plenty of Bonnie and the Blues to keep me company until then.
TicketMOMster is a Rock and Jazz-loving Mom; single-handedly keeping Ticketmaster alive in Winnipeg. Follow her musical journey here: www.facebook.com/TicketMOMs