My friend Denise is very sick at home and needs my blog for reading material (I flatter myself– Truly she is too sick to sit up and read). But Denise had invited me to the Bonnie Raitt concert along with some other friends. The tickets were her birthday present from lovely people that know how to give a gift! The tickets were dead center, 15 rows back, directly even with the stage and with a great line-of-sight at the Bass Performing Arts Center on the UT campus. Poor Denise ended up being too sick to go to the show last night, so I want to write about it so she will know what she missed and so I can thank her for giving me the opportunity!
I’ve never been a big Bonnie Raitt fan and have never seen her. I had her big album in the 80s that was so popular.Â I probably haven’t been too interested in seeing her these last 17 years because Mark’s ex-wife was a big fan so that turned Mark into an anti-fan.
But, it was really an amazing show and I’m glad I experienced it. Paul Thorn was the opening act. I’ve seen him before and got to know him a little bit on our cruise in January. I was really looking forward to seeing him in a setting with a great audience for a full show. He truly delivered. I love the artists that are clever and funny between songs (Ray Wylie Hubbard, Hayes Carll, and Jack Ingram are masters). Paul Thorn is of that class, plus his deep Mississippi accent makes it all the more interesting. Between two songs he said (in that accent and very slowly): “Perhaps your girlfriend just left you and you are considering putting an end to your life. Perhaps this next song will give you the confidence and fortitude you need to carry through with your plan.” His big finale, The Mission Temple Fireworks Stand had the audience on their feet and cheering for an encore (which you just don’t get with an opener, sadly). A huge crowd followed him to the lobby for the intermission to buy his CD. I hope all of those people become aware that we have him booked to play at the Shady Grove in August. I will love that show too!
The Bonnie Raitt show was unlike any other Bonnie Raitt show, I expect. Her former guitar player and long-time friend, Austin’s Stephen Bruton, had passed away the day before of cancer. There was no doubt it was going to be a hard show for her, but I think it was also cathartic.Â If she had had a show scheduled in Detroit or New York or L.A. she probably would have acknowledged his death and talked aboutÂ him and many of her fans would know him, but in Austin, there were so many people in the audience that knew Stephen well, not just from his days in her band, but from all of his other projects that made him a part of Austin life.
She walked out on stage and talked about Stephen before she played a note. Throughout the night she mentioned him almost between every song, mentioning that he was in the video for this song, or how he would always stand on stage and crack her up. It was a very moving tribute without being too sad about it all.Â She also acknowledged Poodie Locke’s death and sent her best wishes to his family.
Her show was a lot like the Bruce Springsteen concert I wrote about. Although I only knew the three big radio hits that I had played in my adult contemporary radio days, the musicianship of the band and her voice made it all incredibly entertaining. She also sang Angel From Montgomery, which I guess is a staple of her road show, but I had never heard her sing it. It seems like all female artists attempt that song, but she really had a nice way of singing it effortlessly.
I’ve learned a lot about sound and production and the way instruments should sound since I’ve been working “in the business” and since marrying Mark.Â The sound on this show was excellent. Never too loud, but loud enough to let you hear every note. Her voice (and the processing equipment that they used) made it sound just like a CD or the radio (well, except better, of course) and I was surprised how good her voice sounded, since it always has seemed raspy when I’ve seen her on TV.
She was also joined by special guests.Â Johnny Nicholas (I think!) came out and played harmonica with her and shared a memory of Stephen Bruton. I don’t know him, but I hear that he is a piano player. Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds also came out and played with her.
Her encore was “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and another song and then a couple of songs with both of the harmonica players joining her on stage. I thought it may have gone one song too long, but she spent almost two solid hours on stage entertaining. She doesn’t dance or fly or any of the things that seem to be a requirement of so many artists anymore, but she put on a beautiful show.
Despite the rule against photos, I did take one, but I was not an idiot that uses flash. This was during the encore with the harmonica players. You can’t really see any of the people onstage, but check out the beautiful background. It was a very cool cloth background gathered in big irregular swoops. With the lights shining in different ways, it really created some different moods. The lighting of the show was one thing I would have changed. People complained at the Bruce Springsteen concert about the bright lights that kept surprising the audience by suddenly shooting right in their eyes. It must be the trendy thing to do because Bonnie’s did that often too. I know they like to be able to see the audience in front of them sometime and this did that, but I had to look away from the stage every time those bright headlights were suddenly in my face. You kind of get an idea on the lights from this picture, too.
I have talked to Denise tonight and she thinks she actually might live. I’m very glad because she has been too sick since last Wednesday. I will write a LOT this week, I promise.