Raitt Picks Richmond to Launch 2016 Tour
I wasn’t slated to go to this show. In fact, it was sold out before I even heard about it. I am not the guy who wins contests or raffles. So I was surprised when my youngest daughter Beth did, and won front row seats. It is great when you share that love of music and your child wants to take you to the show.
Richmond’s Carpenter Theatre is one of those grand old venues that has loads of atmosphere, even when it is packed to capacity as it was Thursday night. Raitt’s love affair with Richmond goes way back to the days she played the Mosque, so it was only natural she would choose the capital city to jump start her 2016 tour.
Bonnie Raitt’s Dig in Deep Tour kicked off to a wildly enthusiastic reception. Raitt was in great form, as was her veteran touring band and the packed house was generous with its gratitude. The show started off with a cover of “Need You Tonight,” with Raitt declaring, “I love INXS!”
The evening was a perfect mix of old and new, with a couple of numbers that had been missing from the set list in recent years, including “Runaway,” the Del Shannon classic. Raitt opined on matters of the heart between songs. Introducing her new single, “Gypsy in Me,” she proclaimed, “This is how I do it, I love ‘em and leave ‘em!”
Raitt invested her performance with such intensity and verve that she set off emotional fireworks with a crowd that was ready to celebrate her return to Richmond. She appeared pleased with the give and take between artist and audience, and almost a little surprised. Her demeanor seemed to ask the question, “Do you still love me,” as if there was any doubt about the answer.
Classics like “Something to Talk About” sat alongside the songs from Dig in Deep, the new material welcomed with equal gusto by the crowd. Dropping onto the piano bench, Raitt introduced one of the new songs, “What You’re Doing’ To Me,” by dedicating it to “the one who’s back home. He pulled me out of my rut.”
Raitt turned in a sublime version of Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line.” Her voice was in full-throated power and balanced sassy with sweet, sexy with vulnerable, tender with sly. She was ably backed by her long-time road companions, George Marinelli on mandolin and guitar, Hutch Hutchinson on bass, Ricky Fataar behind the drum kit, and new member Mike Finnigan on piano.
On this Thursday night Raitt rendered an especially nuanced “Angel From Montgomery,” her voice clear and weighted with experience. Later, she put down her acoustic guitar and sat on a stool in front of the mic. What came next was a heartbreaking, “I Can’t Make You Love Me” all the more powerful for its simple confession of powerlessness.
Near the end of the set Raitt once again returned to the piano. Looking out on the crowded theater she said, “Life is too short, and I don’t want to miss one minute of it.” At that, she launched into “Nick of Time,” the song conveying a sense of the tenuous grasp we have on living. It is a treat to witness an artist who is as comfortable in the quiet spaces as she is in the full tilt boogie. It is in those moments that we see the gift that artists bring to us, the ability to reach the human heart. To see her perform is to realize that Bonnie Raitt is a resonator for our souls.
The opening act, The California Honeydrops had the audience in in their pocket from the first song. It was easy to see why Bonnie Raitt kept referring to them as her favorite band, even bringing them out for the final curtain call. With their gorgeous vocal harmonies, jazzy sound and Crescent City cool vibe they had the crowd won over easily. The audience rewarded them with applause befitting a headliner.
Led by lead vocalist Lech Wierzynski on guitar and trumpet the band was in a mood to swing, and got the Carpenter Theatre rocking. They had many impressive moments but perhaps the most engaging was during the song “Pumpkin Pie.” Drummer Ben Malament came out from behind his kit to play the washboard. Malament took his turn midway through the song, tapping and rubbing, and sounding like world class a tap dancer.
After the show Beth stopped by the merch table to pick up a Honeydrops LP. We walked a few blocks back to the car, talking as we went. She was excited and spoke rapidly about the things she remembered from the show, her face animated and her eyes wide. It is an afterglow you only get from live music, something you can’t get from a televised show (although those can be good too). The thrill of being in the presence of gifted musicians when they make their magic right before you is a singular pleasure that surpasses any experience you can have through a screen. And the best part of it all is when you get to share it with someone you love.