Clowes Memorial Hall
Wednesday, May 16
In the middle of Bonnie Raitt's well executed set of country-blues numbers Wednesday night at Butler University's Clowes Hall, she paused to recognize a 15-year-old girl in the audience whom had somehow come to Raitt's attention for her budding guitar prowess.
"Keep at it girl," said Raitt "We need more women in rock like you."
Indeed, a journey-woman like Raitt is a rarity in the music world. While Springsteen, Clapton, Petty and Dylan have seemingly been granted lifelong relevancy regardless of the quality of their music, she-folkies like that of Raitt (i.e. Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and even Melissa Ethridge) have evaporated from sight or released music on a label owned by Starbucks (the revolution will be caffeinated).
But Raitt's newest album Slipstream, released earlier this year, is the ginger-haired guitarist's sixteenth record, but more importantly, is her first release on her new record label Redwing. The record isn't necessarily a rebirth, but more a rejuvenation.
And it was that same sense of rejuvenation which helped to make her two-hour set so slick, cool and professional.
Raitt began the evening with "Used to Rule the World," the opening track off the new record, which served as a pleasant warm-up for her and her band of expert musicians including keyboardist Mike Finnigan, drummer Ricky Fataar, bassist James Hutchinson and guitarist George Marinelli.
From there she continued with more material from Slipstream including a cover of Gerry Rafferty's "Right Down the Line," a subdued blues ditty, and Bob Dylan's "Million Miles" where Raitt swapped Dylan's smoky bar-band vibe for a more seductively haunted tone.
But aside from covers and new material, Raitt also delivered the classics.
"This one pays for the bus," she said before tearing into "Something To Talk About," Raitt's popular, Grammy-winning song. Where she was more than content to let the boys in her band take over solo duties throughout much of the night, here Raitt took center stage with one of her customary bottleneck slide solos.
Other highlights from the night included "That's Just Love Sneakin' Up On You," a semi-funk song made more muscular by Finnegan's keyboard chop and "Split Decision," an uptempo blues swing about men an woman not getting along.
"It's what helps me have a job after all these years," Raitt said jokingly.
As the evening progressed, Raitt would stop to give thanks to those who have supported her throughout her 40-year career. Be it songwriters, producers, inspirational figures, friends or Raitt's mother, all were mentioned and all were paid tribute through song. Raitt herself became moved while performing the soft acoustics of "You Can't Fail Me Now."
But Raitt was by no means sappy. Rather she was simply thankful. The sappier moments of the evening belonged to opening act Marc Cohn, a singer-songwriter form Cleveland who is famous for the song "Walking in Memphis." A well meaning guy with the voice of a more sentimental Warren Zevon and the melodramatic Americana of a Jackson Browne ballad, his lyrics told romanticized stories of yesteryear, including a song about two star crossed lovers falling in love in the time of the Kennedy's and the eternal bliss of the 60s, or cruising in a roaring Thunderbird. Master of his own destiny.
His teary-eyed take on piano pop fit the mood for the evening, but where Cohn dealt exclusively in the past, Raitt, who isn't immune to the same failings as Cohn, balanced living in the now, with an ever-present sense of gratitude to those who have guided her throughout her illustrious career.