Photography by Kendall Wilson
“Who knew we had to come to the UK to get a sunny vacation?” asks Bonnie Raitt as she opens her main stage set to an adoring crowd in front of a setting evening sun.
Kicking off the final show of her UK and Ireland leg of the tour with her blues rockin’ version of The Bros. Landreth’s ‘Made Up Mind’, Raitt couldn’t have looked more at home on stage - the living embodiment of effortless cool.
Strolling across the stage as she looked to the audience, this was her house and we were all invited.
Once hailed as “the best damn slide player working today” by B.B. King, her Black Deer performance didn’t leave much room for debate. Pairing her signature slide and soaring licks with easy charisma and excellent crowd patter, Raitt proved she is just as exciting as she is experienced.
Raitt acknowledged the ‘election circus’ going on in the US in between on-going tragedies as she brought her ever-present political activism with her. The master of matching heart-wrenching words with a laidback delivery, following ‘Love So Strong’ Raitt dedicates ‘No Business’ to her “dear friend”, John Hiatt.
“I’m glad it’s cooling off, because we’re about to heat it up again”, Raitt warns as the band rip into the sultry ‘Blame It On Me’, her smoky vocals rising above a bluesy backdrop as she holds the audience in the palm of her hand.
At 73, Raitt’s back catalogue is so big that she could dip into any number of tracks and it would be a hit. But that would be too easy. Including five covers in her twelve song set, Raitt takes on Bob Dylan’s ‘Million Miles’ naming him “one of the funkiest blues men I know”.
An important part of Raitt’s long musical career was her long-time friendship with John Prine, who she described losing as her “greatest tragedy”. After seeing a news story about a man who went to visit the mother of the boy who was his heart donor, she was inspired to write the grammy award-winning ‘Just Like That’, which totally captivates the audience.
“Let's move to something a little friskier than that”, Raitt’s trademark charm shines through as she asks, “anyone out there on a date? Hands where I can see ‘em”. ‘Something to Talk About’ is contrasted by ‘Livin' for the Ones’, which leads into a funky rock rendition of INXS’ ‘Need You Tonight’. A much emancipated performance of John Prine’s ‘Angel From Montgomery’ highlights Raitt’s faultless, full-bodied vocals, as the poignancy of the cover is not lost on a silent crowd.
Flaunting her effortless ability to take a track and make it sound like an original, Raitt shows her respect for her musical peers of past and present. Igniting the stage with a closing cover of Talking Heads’ ‘Burning Down The House’, she pays her dues to Ruth Brown and the “true pioneers of blues and jazz” that never received their royalties.
Rounding off the performance to rousing applause from the adoring audience, this was a masterclass in Americana.
Bonnie Raitt - Setlist
Taken from her headlining set at Black Deer Festival 2023 at Eridge Park, Kent, UK on Saturday, June 17, 2023.
For more coverage of Black Deer Festival 2023, see below: