|Bonnie Raitt (Kevin Winter/Getty Images/AFP)
TORONTO - Bonnie Raitt definitely gave her audience something to talk about on Saturday night at Massey Hall.
The 62-year-old blues singer-songwriter-slide guitarist with the exquisite raspy voice was in top form in front of a sold-out crowd as she made performing look effortless and easy over an hour and 50 minutes.
That was the deceptive part.
Because Raitt, touring in support of her latest album Slipstream, which has garnered some of her best reviews in years, poured herself into a very soulful performance. Donned in a black and purple sequined shirt and tight black jeans, she took the crowd - including Canadian rocker Randy Bachman in the front row of the hall’s first balcony - along with her.
“I’m so glad we crossed the border and came to play in this legendary hall,” said the petite, flaming-haired (save for her trademark white streak) singer. “This place has a lot of history and so do we. How old is this place? 1895? I was still playing folk clubs back then.”
Not only was Raitt a self-assured, straightforward and sexy performer - clearly comfortable in her own skin - she was funny too as she managed to merge blues, folk, rock, and soul in an organic and pleasing way.
She also never forgot her girly side, occasionally applying lipstick or “product’ as she called it, on stage.
Opening with the Slipstream songs “Used To Rule The World” and her winning reggae cover of Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down The Line”, Raitt - who alternated between electric and acoustic guitars all night long - got to the chestnuts early with her ’90s chart-topper “Something To Talk About It” written by Canadian Shirley Eikhard.
She also did justice to Bob Dylan’s “Million Miles”, another Slipstream song.
She was generous to her bandmates guitarist George Marinelli, drummer Ricky Fataar, bassist James Hutchinson and veteran keyboardist Mike Finnigan. The latter took over on lead vocals - with some nice Hammond organ work too - on the blues shouter “I Got News for You”.
“You’re a singing fool,” said a smiling Raitt afterwards to Finnigan, who brought the crowd to their feet.
Other standouts included the up-tempo Slipstream track, “Marriage Made In Hollywood”, which she pointed out was co-written by her ex-husband, actor Michael O’ Keefe; the ballad “Not Cause I Wanted To”, the John Prine cover “Angel From Montgomery” - which garnered the biggest applause and the first standing ovation of the night for Raitt; the blues numbers “Love Me Like A Man” and “I Feel So Damn Good (I’ll Be Glad When I Get The Blues)” and the Elvis-popularized rockabilly tune, “A Big Hunk O’ Love”.
“Long live the blues and rock ‘n’ roll!” shouted Raitt as her main set came to a close. “Long live tribal spirit!”
When it came time for the encore, Raitt settled herself into a chair for the hearbreaking “I Can’t Make You Love Me”. She let some mighty big notes rip before standing up again for the vocally dynamic “Have A Heart”, and the show-ending cover of Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love” sung as a duet with her opening act Marc Cohn of “Walking In Memphis” fame.
Used to Rule the World
Right Down the Line
Something To Talk About
You Can’t Fail Me Now
Love Sneakin’ Up on You
Come to Me
Marriage Made In Hollywood
Ain’t Gonna Let You Go
Not Cause I Wanted To.
Angel From Montgomery
Love Me Like a Man
I Got News For You
I Feel So Damn Good (I’ll Be Glad When I Get The Blues)
A Big Hunk O’ Love
I Can’t Make You Love Me
Have a Heart