29TH OCTOBER 2014
The term legend is often used, but blues singer Bonnie Raitt really is an American institution. With 10 Grammy awards to her credit, including her latest album Slipstream taking the award for best Americana album at this years awards. She has also been recognised in Rolling Stone Magazine's 100 Greatest polls both as a guitarist and vocalist. Raitt, who has been recording since 1971, is still proving that the blues is as relevant today as it ever was.
The first night of her current UK tour at Southend Cliffs Pavilion is met by a very eager and appreciative audience, which is not surprising considering Bonnie has not toured in the UK since 2006. She kicks off the set with the funky Used to Rule the World and gives the Gerry Rafferty classic RightDown the Line a classic Bonnie Raitt feel. Her voice is striking and instantly recognisable. She can move from singing sultry sexy blues, to breaking your heart as easily as she plays slide on her old brown Fender. And boy can she make that guitar sing! She has the rare ability to make her guitar have a voice as impassioned as her own and is totally unique. An old favouriteSomething To Talk About demonstrates her acumen early in the set – as if we needed any more proof!
Bonnie performs without hubris to such an extent that it's a pleasure to see a performer of her calibre cracking jokes and exchanging playful banter with the band and guitar tech. The absence of pretence adds more verisimilitude to her music. Her set is varied with old songs and new, making sure that her fans get the most of her two hour plus concert and even diverting from the set list and adding a couple of 'wild card songs' into the mix for good measure. The bitter-sweet love song Not Cause I wanted To was met with great rapture by the audience after Bonnie played the song live on Jools Holland's show recently. Breaking away from the set list after seeing an old performance of hers on the Old Grey Whistle Test earlier that morning, Bonnie dedicated a moving version of Angel Of Montgomery to herMother. Lightening the mood she heads into the punchy blues song Thing Called Love before handing over to keyboard player Mike Finnigan for his sublime rendition of Buddy Guy's I Got News For You. Approaching the end of the evening she says of her songs 'I wish we could play them all' and the audience would be more than willing to hear them.
After a standing ovation leading us into the encore is a painfully heartfelt version of I Can't Make You Love Me which touches the soul. The song brought Bonnie's music to a new audience after being covered by Adele. The song was voted by Mojo Magazine number 8 in their 100 songs of all time list. The song still sounds as powerful now as it did on her brilliant 1991 album Luck of the Draw. The band go out on a high delivering foot stamping blues which the audience came for in the shape of Love Me Like A Man and the Elvis classic Big Hunk O' Love
It is a real joy to witness a concert of this standard in this modest sized venue. You feel as though you are much more part of the show than if you were seeing an ant sized Bonnie Raitt band at a larger venue. The Pavilion also boasts one of the best sound systems and mixes I have heard at any live concert recently.
Bonnie Raitt really is the Queen of Blues – Bonnie, You don't have to make us love you – we already do! Please come back to the UK soon and play some more o' those funky songs!