WAITE PARK, Minn. — Even before Bonnie Raitt sang a note at the Ledge Amphitheater on Friday night, she laid out her deep Minnesota roots.
“Minnesota!” she said on stage. “Nice to be back. What a great venue.”
After her debut track, she hailed Minnesota musical institutions Lamont Cranston, Willie Murphy, Tony Glover and Dave Ray. The singer-guitarist, who recorded her first album on Lake Minnetonka in 1971, recalled her party days in the Twin Cities in the 70s and 80s.
She explained that if she hadn’t gotten sober, “half an hour after she finished [performing tonight], I would be in that water,” she said, referring to a mini-lake in Ledge Quarries. “Buck naked. And my whole Minneapolis family would be with me.”
At her first Minnesota headline concert since 2016 at the State Fair, Raitt was in high spirits Friday, carrying on as if she were in her living room and not a quaint outdoor venue with 4,200 adoring fans. She kept changing the set list, flirting with a nimble dancer in the front row and apologizing to the sign language interpreters every time she dropped a word that wasn’t suitable for this newspaper.
Its friendliness was pleasantly engaging, but the flippancy also negated the momentum of the show. There were plenty of highlights (as evidenced by two full standing ovations and four partial ovations), but no flow to a climactic pre-evening finale and no familiar, energetic send-off (she opted for the obscure “One Belief Away” with its deliciously liquid Afrobeat rhythm).
However, there was a constant emotionality throughout that made the 100-minute performance so rewarding. Without the road-weary rasp of the past, her voice was rich, soulful and surprisingly sincere, especially on the impossibly sad ballads “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (with elegantly despondent piano by newcomer Glenn Patscha) and “Angel” by John Prine. of Montgomery”, about a woman trapped in a marriage.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer’s slide guitar work was equally soulful, with a remarkable range of moods, including mournful (“Blame It on Me”), mystical (“Back Around”), sensual (“Need You Tonight “), cheerful (“Something To Talk About”), scathing (“Livin’ for the Ones”), sly (“Have a Heart”) and funky (“You Got the Love”).
She also gave numerous solos to guitarist Duke Levine, another newcomer, with longtime guitarist George Marinelli taking some time off.
Raitt, 72, offered five selections from her excellent 2022 album ‘Just Like That’, including the title track, a true-to-life ballad about a woman who lost her 25-year-old son but heard his heart transplanted to another man. It was a compelling story of grace that captivated the sold-out crowd.
Other notable new numbers include the slow-burning blues “Blame It on Me,” the night’s first cry of sorrow, and the Stones-esque rocker hopeful “Livin’ for the Ones,” dedicated to the late brother. from Raitt, Steve, a long-time Twin Cities. sound engineer/producer.
Before the night was over, Raitt mentioned the State Fair, First Avenue and the Joint bar as well as Spider John Koerner, Willie & the Bees, the TC Jammers, Melanie Rosales, Ricky Peterson, Margaret Cox, Bobby Vandell (who was in the audience) – just about any musician from Minnesota on the stage before Prince.
“I love you too, Minnesota,” she shouted after the final standing ovation of the evening. “I feel it too.”
Opening the concert was Mavis Staples, 83, a force for happiness, inspiration and positivity. The Rock Hall of Famer’s spirit, energy and gospel messages were infectious. It’s a shame she didn’t duet with Raitt like they did when they toured together 10 years ago.
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