John Lee Hooker once opined that Bonnie Raitt would never survive the blues – a compliment, after a fashion – yet here she was, very much still standing and primed once again, in her own words, to rip her heart open for our vicarious pleasure.
Bonnie Raitt | Rating: **** | Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Raitt knows the blues, musically as much as emotionally. She didn’t even have to articulate it in words; it was all there in her natural raspy tone, effortless phrasing and fluid guitar playing, which was authoritative but never showy.
But when she did articulate, she was unfailingly eloquent in her interpretation of an audacious range of material, from her spare but earthy take on the INXS hit Need You Tonight to a low-slung reggae rendition of Gerry Rafferty’s Right Down the Line, both of which surpassed the over-produced originals.
Along the way, there were winning insights, both playful – she’s a sucker for Countryfile and is ready to assist in rewilding Scotland (“I’ve got the wellies”) – and political – she is escaping the insanity of the US presidential race by immersing herself in the EU referendum (as, presumably, one escapes a frying pan by jumping into a fire).
Her best-loved ballad, I Can’t Make You Love Me, was delivered in somewhat supper club style, lacking the quiet impact of John Prine’s Angel From Montgomery, for which she plucked Texan singer/songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman from the crowd, just like that, for a truly special harmony duet.