Bonnie Raitt was born to play Benaroya Hall. Her father was a Broadway singer, and her mother was his musical director, so it was no surprise Raitt started her concert Sunday with an opera joke.
“We’re going to do some Wagner,” she said. “The reggae versions.”
Instead, Raitt played a sublime two-hour concert Sunday evening, mixing blues burners and plaintive ballads. The show earned her several well-deserved standing ovations, and much applause for her stellar four-piece band.
In between songs, she was self-depreciating: “We’re going to turn this place into a jukebox, I mean juke joint — I’d be glad to be on a jukebox, at this point.”
She pulled out several special treats for the Seattle audience, and brought Curtis Salgado up for harmonica on two songs. And one of the night’s highlights was Raitt’s cover of Richard Thompson’s “Dimming of the Day,” dedicated to local treasure Danny O’Keefe.
Raitt admitted that following every “heartbreak ballad” she needed to play an upbeat blues number, like “Come With Me,” and it was on these where her considerable guitar skills were displayed. At 63, her chops have never been better.
Yet it was her ballads that ruled the night. “Angel From Montgomery,” changed up from previous tours, earned the first standing ovation. She dedicated the song to her mother, and it was a stunner. The song, of course, was written by John Prine, but Raitt has inhabited it now.
Though she is a talented songwriter herself, Raitt is best known as an interpreter. Sunday she played songs by Bob Dylan, Paul Brady, and a flirty cover of Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line.”
The night’s most poignant moment came, as could have been predicted, with her first encore of “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” Raitt didn’t write this song, either — and it was originally composed as a bluegrass number — but she has made it her signature. The lights went down low, as the song’s lyric suggests, and Mike Finnigan skillfully tackled the piano.
The song was spectacular in Benaroya. Raitt has sung “I Can’t…” thousands of time by now, but she still seemed choked up as the song “pierced the veil.” Sunday night, it touched the singer, and the audience.
“I hope I keep coming back,” Raitt said, “and that I never disappoint you.” The crowd knew they’d seen a very special show at Benaroya, and lavished her with wild applause.
If they hadn’t loved her before, they certainly did by the end of the night.