Bonnie Raitt – Civic Theatre April 1, 2017

No foolin’, like Bruce Springsteen just weeks before her, Bonnie Raitt proved 67 just might be the prime age for a rocker, putting on a show at Auckland’s Civic Theatre that showed off instrumental prowess,  boundless energy and most impressive, an ability to connect emotionally to songs she’s been singing for over 40 years.

But first, opening act Jackie Bristow.

Jackie is a native of Gore who has spent a good portion of her career overseas, first in Australia and now in the US. She writes and sings songs that could be considered “country”, but fall more into folk and Americana categories.

Jackie was joined onstage by long-time producer/co-songwriter/guitarist Mark Punch and bass player Kevin Cooney. Theirs was a beautifully intimate set, sparked at times by Punch’s impressive guitar skills. It felt like something of a homecoming show for Jackie and indeed, her parents were seated in the front row, cheering her on.

When Bonnie and her band took the stage, it was clear right from the beginning that they were happy to be here.

“We’re just trying to get away from Trump!”, Bonnie half-joked.

Raitt has always had a political voice and she used it tonight, particularly during the song, The Comin’ Around Is Going Through, a commentary on the US election process that rocked hard in the middle of the set.

“I got fired up on that one”, she exclaimed.

That song, a quite a few others played tonight were from her most recent album, 2016’s Dig In Deep. And Bonnie showed us exactly what it means to “dig in deep”.

Her relationship to her songs, whether they are new or old, written by her or someone else, is extremely personal and that relationship becomes clear when you listen and watch her perform those songs.

Not only was she totally immersed in recent tunes such as I Knew and Undone…both from the new album…but she became so caught up in the sentiment behind John Prine’s Angel Of Montgomery, a song she’s been singing since 1974, that she needed a moment to collect herself after performing the song.

Fortunately keyboard player Mike Finnigan was standing by to take the helm briefly with his very impressive interpretation of B.B. King’s explosive blues tune, Don’t Answer The Door.

I should point out that Bonnie’s veteran road-tested band also features guitarist George Marinelli, drummer Ricky Fataar (formerly of The Beach Boys) and long-time bassist James “Hutch” Hutchinson, all of whom played with passion and precision.

Bonnie and band also paid tribute to the late, great Chuck Berry with the rockin’ I Believe I’m In Love With You, a Berry-esque tune written by Kim Wilson of The Fabulous Thunderbirds,.

After one more tune from Dig In Deep, What You’re Doin’ To Me, which found Bonnie playing keys and dedicating the tune to her boyfriend back in California, we were treated to a four-song encore.

First up was another stunning vocal performance, this time, I Can’t Make You Love Me. Again, this is a tune that Raitt has been singing for years, yet her performance sounded so fresh and heartfelt that it was like hearing her sing it, and feel it, for the first time.

Then the mood lightened with John Hiatt’s bouncy Thing Called Love and a funky cover of Talking Heads Burning Down The House.

Finally, Bonnie reached back to her 1975 Home Plate album for a lovely Sweet And Shining Eyes to close out a truly memorable show.

Yes, like her contemporary, Mr Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt proved that it’s possible to be, not only vital, but at your artistic peak at the ripe old age of 67.

Marty Duda

Photos by Veronica McLaughlin

Bonnie Raitt set list:

  1. Need You Tonight
  2. Used To Rule The World
  3. I Knew
  4. Undone
  5. Nobody’s Girl
  6. Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes
  7. The Road’s My Middle Name
  8. I Feel The Same
  9. Hear Me Lord
  10. Something To Talk About
  11. The Comin’ Round Is Going Through
  12. Angel From Montgomery
  13. Don’t Answer The Door
  14. I Believe I’m In Love With You
  15. What You’re Doin’ To Me
  16. I Can’t Make You Love Me
  17. Thing Called Love
  18. Burning Down The House
  19. Sweet And Shining Eyes