Midway through her set when a member of her crew bent over to fix a monitor and showed some unseemly plumber’s crack, Bonnie Raitt cracked “Yeah, that’s the photo your family wants to see.”
The legendary blueswoman does nothing subtly.
On Sunday afternoon at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival during a 90-minute set, Raitt was simply on fire.
The guitar goddess, decked out in a turquoise zebra-striped shirt to “honor the spirit of Ernie K-Doe”, had plenty of praise for the city of New Orleans, Jazz Fest and her fellow performers.
“We drove by the Mother-in-Law Lounge on the way here,” said Raitt of K-Doe’s famous New Orleans hotspot.
And while she said she missed out on catching upcoming tour partner Mavis Staples, Raitt had time to watch festival performances by both John Mooney and Bluesiana and the Malone Brothers on Saturday.
“Man, it was slammin.’”
The same could be said of Raitt and her veteran band, featuring guitarist George Martinelli, bassist James “Hutch” Hutchinson, drummer Ricky Fataar and keyboardist Mike Finnegan. New Orleans-based musician Jon Cleary also accompanied Raitt on piano for a few cuts, including “Love Sneakin’ Up On You” and “So Damn Good,” which they recorded live together at the 2009 Jazz Fest to benefit Earthjustice.
Raitt delivered a few more of her classics, the upbeat “Something To Talk About” and the slow ballad “Angel from Montgomery,” but mostly showcased songs from new album Slipstream, her first record in seven years and yet another one that showcases her legendary blues roots.
That list included the cover of Bob Dylan’s blues number “Million Miles,” a reggae-infused version of Gerry Rafferty’s 1978 hit “Right Down the Line,” “Can’t Fail Me Now,” “Aint Gonna Let You Go” and “Down to You.” The latter is a song she co-wrote with Randall Bramblett and has to do with having “too much whining around you.”
“I don’t write a lot, but I’m really proud of this one on the new album,” Raitt said of the song.
Raitt constantly bantered with both her stagemates and the audience, even pausing a couple of times to reapply her lipstick. The interaction made for a more intimate set even though the crowd stretched all the way back to the fence lines.
“Who could read the setlist?” quipped the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer midway through the set. After leaning closer, she remarked, “Oh, I love this one!”
If that wasn’t enough to peak the crowd, the opening bars of “Come to Me” from 1991’s Luck of the Draw quickly did the trick.
Later, upon returning for her encore, Raitt apologized for going over her allotted time and having to cut out a few songs.
“I don’t know whether to keep on rocking or play a sad song,” she said.
She did both, staring with hit-song “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”
After expressing gratitude to all those who have covered the song — Adele and Bon Iver to name a few — Raitt said, “I wouldn’t want to go without doing that for you.”
For the first time in her set, Raitt went sans guitar, sitting on a stool to belt out the famed ballad.
She immediately revved things back up with a cover of the Fabulous Thunderbirds’ “I Believe I’m in Love,” once again backed by Cleary.
However, midway through the song, Raitt announced a “special surprise,” as Allen Touissant, who performed Saturday afternoon at Jazz Fest, quietly snuck onstage to finish out the number.
Earlier in the set, Raitt talked about how thankful she was to always have New Orleans to come back to. With performances like today, we’re guessing the Big Easy will be more than happy to accommodate her anytime.