Concert Review – Bonnie Raitt@Newcastle City Hall 24th June 2013
Newcastle City Hall has been around since 1927 and has welcomed artists from across the spectrum of music, comedy and theatre. The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan have all played the “City Hall” as it’s known. Recently it has come under threat of closure and with many modern acts choosing to play the modern (and sterile ) Sage or even more bland Metro Arena it is wonderful to see an artist of the calibre of Bonnie Raitt continuing to tour here. This is her 3rd visit that I recall and as she said when coming on stage “ What a wonderful theatre..” she must have an affinity with it. But in such a venue the audience can also build an affinity with such a great performer too.
Kicking off with a roaring Used To Rule The World the opening track on her Grammy Award winning new album Slipstream the audience knew the flame haired troubadour meant business, as Bonnie stalked the stage throwing out slide licks that were sweet, mean and dirty all at the same time.
Having seen Bonnie a few times over the last ten years or so I have to say this is the best band I have seen backing her. With her main foil being keyboard wizard Mike Finnegan (Hendrix, CSN, Joe Cocker etc etc) who brought a depth and virtuosity with his expressive playing and vocals that Bonnie bounced off all night, even to playing some wonderful bottleneck as Finnegan was allowed a cameo to sing I Got News For You a glorious Ray Charles rocker. Guitarist George Marinelli (Bruce Hornsby) dovetailed in perfectly dropping back when Bonnie soloed and then ripping out his own fine solos when Bonnie played acoustic. With drummer Ricky Fataar (Beach Boys) and bassist Hutch Hutchinson (Neville Bros etc) laying down a solid back beat Bonnie could just lay back and play.
Tonight was a journey through Bonnie’s pretty extensive back catalogue of sixteen studio albums. While songs from Slipstream were featured ;- a delightful cover of Dylan’s Million Miles, Gerry Rafferty’s Right Down The Line (with a touching tribute to the late Scottish singer), Not Cause I Wanted To – with a false start as Bonnie needed the monitor mix just right – and a version of Down To You that nearly set light to the theatre!
The audience however were delighted when she delved back to some of her earlier recordings – often with an aside from Bonnie commenting on her age and how long it had been since a certain albums release – and delivered some of her best vocal performances on the likes of Angel From Montgomery and Love Has No Pride played virtually solo with just voice and acoustic guitar, as the audience hardly dared to breath! The title song from Nick Of Time released twenty four years ago, a point Bonnie made saying she was in her forties when she released it – but she showed that this lady can still deliver and the extra years have in no way diminished her talents. Dressed in a green jewelled blouse, tight blue jeans that fit perfectly, and applying lipstick as she commented “this ain’t no girl, I’m a woman!” Bonnie demonstrated that with a Strat and bottleneck slide she was not in the mood to take prisoners!
Playing for nearly two hours finally Bonnie drew the set to an end, but the audience were all on their feet roaring out their approval, until she quickly came back out to rightly heap praise on her band and crew for providing not only great music, but fantastic sound and lights throughout the show. Then she concluded with an encore that was beyond the sublime singing I Can’t Make You Love Me from her Luck Of The Draw album the aforementioned Love Has No Pride from Give It Up and Have A Heart and Real Man from Nick Of Time ending one of those “glad I was there nights.
Her last words were “It’s an honour to be this age and still doing this for a living!” – well there are a heck of a lot of years still left in my view.
– John Jobling