red lights


Far too comfortable

Bonnie Raitt
Eagles Ballroom
Milwuakee, WI
Nov. 2, 2005
Bonnie Raitt

Story by John Halverson
Photo by Joanna Halverson

Bonnie Raitt is an old hand. She's got the banter, a nice change of pace and the confidence of someone who's been doing this for a long time. But there's another side, too. The recklessness is gone. The songbook is almost completely devoid of the blues that first defined her and four encores has become three too many.

At least that's the way I saw it when I saw her at the The Rave/Eagles Club in Milwaukee Nov. 2. Her band is tight and there's a nice give and take between her and veteran guitar player and sidekick George Marinelli. And when she calmly walked on the stage near the end of Maia Sharp's bland opening act, it was clear that Bonnie's stage presence was more than just the red hair.

She was strongest on rockers like "I Believe I'm in Love With You" where her voice was confident and strong and her funky guitar was so good it barely needed a voice over. In fact, if anything, her guitar playing has just gotten stronger over the years. There are few people, and fewer women, whose work can be instantly identified, but Raitt's raspy, twangy sound is one of them.

But the comfort level was her downfall in signature songs like "Something to Talk About," a truly clever pop song, and "Nick of Time" which would have been more interesting if they didn't sound exactly like the studio versions. And her pensive songs, several written by Sharp, seemed too small for her talent.

It's been a long time on the road for Bonnie and it shows. When I first saw her in the early '70s with Tom Waits, Tom was the tired one and Bonnie the snarling up and comer. Now it's Bonnie who looks tired and a little too comfortable.

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