Posts Tagged ‘Jimi Hendrix’

Concert Review – Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples at the Cape Cod Melody Tent

July 1, 2012

On a crisp and breezy summer night in late June, Bonnie Raitt, still a fine singer at 62, closed the current leg of her tour  in Hyannis, MA at the Cape Cod Melody Tent. Throughout the excellent show, Raitt spent ample time slinking her way through songs both old and new, recognizable hits and ones that should be from her excellent new CD Slipstream.

She kicked off the evening working the crowd in to the feel good groove of “Used To Rule The World,” the opening cut on the new album, before launching into the reggae mood of “Right Down The Line,” her excellent cover of the Gerry Rafferty song.

The night quickly became a showcase for the new music, some of the blueiest of Raitt’s career, and her first new music in seven years. In addition to the opening numbers, Raitt performed a beautiful cover of Bob Dylan’s “Million Miles,” Joe Henry’s “You Can’t Fail Me Now,” and “Marriage Made In Hollywood,” co-written by her ex-husband Michael O’Keefe.

The highlight of the new music was “Not Cause I Wanted To,” co-wrriten by country songwriter Al Anderson. A pensive ballad, the crowd became transfixed on Raitt’s emotive vocal. The tasteful and quiet arrangement helped too, as it gave the song appropriate room to breathe. A classic in the making, it was a show-stopping moment, and proof there are artists out there still willing to bring quality songs to their fans.

Raitt also turned back the clock to her iconic classics, turning in fine versions of “Something To Talk About,” “Love’s Sneaking Up On You,” and John Hiatt’s  “Thing Called Love,” complete with her usual energy and gusto. And with the mark of an acute songstress, they all sounded as good as they did more than twenty years ago, if not better. (The only hit she didn’t sing was “Nick of Time”).

Having never seen Raitt live before, I was unaware of her easy going nature and sense of humor. Between songs she spoke lovingly of the memories she has of being a little girl, peaking down the aisles of the very tent she was performing in (although, as she noted, it’s been moved just slightly from its original location).

Raitt came of age in Massachusetts, getting her start as a musician in Cambridge, the city bordering Boston. She didn’t talk about her Cambridge connection, but through memories with her father, her love of Massachusetts became very clear. She was even able to visit Martha’s Vineyard  during this brief stay.

She also made sure to interact with the audience, even remarking at a fan’s sign requesting a couple of songs. She was amazed at this person’s level of Raitt knowledge, requesting two songs she deemed “obscure” (she never said what they were), quipping that she wished she still knew them.

At another point, during the encore, Raitt became somewhat political, taking a stance against the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant (in nearby Plymouth, MA), advocating for it’s permanent closer. A very hot-button issue (the workers have recently been on strike), it got the crowd going and forced security to evict someone. This semi-rant led into her Nick of Time hit “Have A Heart,” and was supposed to infuse the song with added power.

I’m not one for artists using their platform to spiel political discourse, and in the post-Maines era, it’s proven not to be a smart move. But it hardly took away from the  music-centric evening. Raitt often proved a mutual admiration society with her band, some of whom had been with her for more than 20 years.

One of the newest additions is noted keyboardist Mike Finnigan, known for his work with Jimi Hendrix, Manhattan Transfer, and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Raitt paused long enough to give Finnigan a solo number, the deepest slice of authentic blues heard all evening.

Moments like this gave Raitt a chance to display her guitar prowess, an underrated talent in the music world. Throughout the evening she switched between many guitars, both acoustic and electric. Her playing abilities were as intoxicating as her singing, and together proved an ultimate package.

The aforementioned encore proved another highlight as Raitt brought out her secret weapon (and only guitar-less number), “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” A song deeply engrained within us, Raitt infused it with new meaning by slowing it down even further, thus letting the emotion sink in. She closed with a spirited Elvis Presley cover.

Staples, the opening act, got the party rolling with her throaty mix of Gospel and southern preaching. Like a female God, she emoted from the deepest fibers of her soul when talking about the Civil Rights Movement and marches from Montgomery to Selma through chants of “I will not turn around!”

Her somewhat lengthy (for this venue, which has a noise curfew) hour long set also included a lovely tribute to Levon Helm and a showcase of her siblings, the Staples Singers (Cleeotha, Pervis, and Yvonne). While not as famous, they proved just as good  and accompanied Mavis all evening.

But the highlight of her set came when Raitt made a surprise appearance, joining Staples on stage for a cover I wasn’t expecting to hear – The Carter Family / Nitty Gritty Dirt Band classic “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.” Unaware of its connection to the Staples Singers, this came as a shock out of nowhere, yet was one of the night’s most enjoyable moments.

Overall, it was fabulous night of entertainment from two extremely classy individuals who seem better with age.  It also didn’t hurt that the sold out show was filled with music lovers (mostly the Baby Boomer generation), not young adults looking to drink beer and raise a Red Solo Cup. Being surrounded by people who not only appreciated but understood good music turned an ordinary evening into something very special.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – it’s often a curse, growing up with two in the round theaters practically in your backyard. The intimacy of the performances is easily unmatched when placed on bigger stages in the Boston. The closeness between singer and fan can’t be found most other places, and I’m grateful to have grown up with The Cape Cod Melody Tent and South Shore Music Circus playing a critical role in my musical education. And, of course, for making nights like this a reality.

She went back to black and said no to rehab

July 24, 2011

I may be a country music fan at heart, but I’m still deeply saddened by the death of Amy Winehouse. I recognize quality music when I here it, and Back To Black was as solid any album as any to see release in 2006.

I was first exposed to her music in August of 2007 when my Godmother played me her song “Rehab,” while on a visit to her house. Being naive, I thought the song was a declaration of her not traveling down the path into destruction.  Obviously, I was dead wrong.

It would be the following winter before I’d hear Back to Black  in its entirety. I wouldn’t even think about her music again until she swept the Grammy Awards. After purchasing  the album, I was blown away. That voice mixed with those songs came together to create an irresistible combination. She may not be anything close to a country singer, but it didn’t matter. I felt her music.

Much has already, and will be, written about her inclusion into the famed “Forever 27” club – rock legends (Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Kurt Cobain) who all died at that young age. Much will also be made about her importance in the music industry. She’ll always be included in that legendary company, but does she deserve to rank among those great artists?

The short answer is really, only time will tell. Her legacy is just being mounted. It’s going to take a long time for the public to look at Winehouse solely for her music and not for the public spectacle she made of herself. Sure, her demons will always cast a shadow, but future generations will likely learn about Winehouse through her music, not her addictions. I know because that’s how I’ve grown to love Joplin, for her music.

I can’t really explain why, but Back To Black is a classic. It’s an album and not just a couple singles surrounded by filler. Back To Black is her Pearl, just released during her lifetime. In way, it’s criminal to think it won every major Grammy Award except Album of the Year. I’m glad for Herbie Handcock’s River – The Join Letters, but Winehouse had the best album that year.

In essence, Winehouse is the first member of this “forever 27” club I will have known during her life. I remember watching her Grammy Awards performance blown away by what I was seeing. I had to it look up the  to refresh my memory, but it all came flooding back – she was denied a visa to leave the UK and had to perform in a British club. The sultry Winehouse in the smoky club had a real old-fashioned vibe to it. You kind of knew you were witnessing something special.

In the years since that night, she wouldn’t release any more music, but her influence was felt far and wide. Winehouse ushered in a British-soul invasion that has captivated America. In her wake, artists like Duffy, Adele, and Estelle have all made their marks. They all had a similar sound to Winehouse, but also their own individuality.

Arguably, the most successful in this post-Winehouse group is Adele, who’s sophomore album 21 and single “Rolling In The Deep” have been 2011’s biggest mainstream success stories not named Blake Shelton. I have her album as well and its fantastic. Pure talent doesn’t come along very often but Adele has it.

And so did Winehouse, which is why I find it sad that it takes death to bring appreciation to talent. The whole world is saddened, yet hardly surprised, that we’ve lost another raw talent so quickly, but we’re not above revisiting her albums and taking another look at her music.

When I heard about the now famous Belgrade concert last month, I kind of laughed it off as just another episode. I viewed her fumbling around on stage as just another train wreck moment and not another notch in her downfall. I’ll always think she was screwed up that night, but I never thought it was as bad as it was. In reality, I don’t think anyone did.

Thankfully, though, the addictions aren’t the only reason we know Winehouse’s name. The most important part of her legacy is her music and that will always be there to draw the attention of new fans.

I would like to see Winehouse remembered for her most valued asset – her voice. It was so unique and expressive.  The way a white girl could sound black was just incredible. There wasn’t anyone else who sounded like her.
Listening to her music was like going back in time to another era, which is why her Grammy performance worked so well. She found the perfect venue to capture the essence of her voice.

Which is why it’s such a shame she couldn’t have found a way to get herself together. If we learn any lesson in her death, it’s to make sure we tell those around us how much we value them. That little compliment may make all the difference because all we really want to know is that we matter.

In honor of Amy Winehouse, lets go Back To Black.