Thursday, June 14, 2012

Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion, Charlottesville, Virginia

Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples
nTelos Wireless Pavilion
Charlottesville, Virginia
June 12, 2012

     It was with great anticipation that we drove an hour from our home to Charlottesville, Va. to see Bonnie Raitt.  I have been a Bonnie Raitt fan since the early 1970s.  She was very popular in the D.C. area while I was in college at Georgetown University.  It seems that I was always in the wrong place at the wrong time, or had the wrong exam schedule to ever see her in concert.  I was excited to see her career explode in the 80s and early 90s and was glad when she won all of those Grammy Awards.  Her live album 1996's "Road Tested" has been the soundtrack for many a road trip.

      The show opened with a short set from 72 year old Mavis Staples.  Although the set was short, Mavis had the crowd energized and ready for Bonnie Raitt.  Highlights included "Freedom Highway" after which Ms. Staples recounted her father's work with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., a funky version of Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" and The Band's "The Weight".  The finale was a rousing, stomping, crowd pleasing extended version of "I'll Take You There".  

     Bonnie Raitt hit the ground running with songs from her new CD "Slipstream".  She opened by growling into the first track from the album, "Used to Rule the World".  This was followed by the inspired reworking of the 1970s Gerry Rafferty tune "Right Down the Line".  Her slide playing, long a trademark, was on target from the very beginning.  She then played more familiar tunes including "Something to Talk About".  

     The highlights of the show were to come later, however.  She introduced a young singer/songwriter newly relocated to Virginia named Sarah Siskind.  This young lady has a fine voice and performed a stunning duet on John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery".  Ms. Siskind then played one of her own compositions which I think was entitled "One Day at a Time".  The other two show stoppers were John Hiatt's "Thing Called Love" and the finale: "I Feel so Damn Good (I'll Be Glad When I Get the Blues)".

     My only gripe was with the venue.  We were "greeted" by the concert Gestapo who refused to let us come in with a camera.  Let's make this clear: I'm a sixty-something and not one to cause trouble.  I'm a blogger and an amateur photographer and I take a camera everywhere.  I use a Canon SX20IS which is a glorified point and shoot.  It has a long zoom capability which makes it perfect for taking pictures at concerts (please see some of my other concert reviews).  I never use flash and no one has ever complained about the camera.    The people at the gate were rude and told me to go back to my car with the camera.  I contacted the venue the next day and they told me that the "no camera" policy was at the artist's discretion, so I guess this was Ms. Raitt's fault, but a simple explanation from the gatekeepers would have been nice.  Secondly, I re-learned a hard lesson from previous trips to this venue.  The 200 section seats suck.  There is a restaurant section which is flat and between the 100 level seats and the 200 level seats.  People stand in there and yack at their friends, some even with their back to the stage, making it impossible to see the artist perform.  This particular show was a benefit for the Charlottesville Free Clinic, so I guess the 100 seats were sold through the Clinic because none were available just minutes after the tickets went on sale.  My desire to see Bonnie Raitt over-road my apprehensions about the 200 level seats which were available.  Finally, at the risk of sounding like a total old crank, the people around us were intolerable.  The row in front of us talked loudly and laughed through the whole performance.  The only reprieve from their boorish behavior was during their frequent trips for beer and subsequent trips to the bathroom.  Moral of the story: If you want to enjoy the show, get 100 level seats for this venue or wait for the concert DVD.

    It was great to finally see Bonnie Raitt perform.  Her voice is still splendid, as is her guitar playing.  It should be mentioned also that her band, consisting of Mike Finnigan on keyboards, George Marinelli on guitars, bass player "Hutch" Hutchison and drummer Ricky Fataar, was worth the price of admission by themselves.  Finnigan was a wizard on the Hammond B-3 and electric piano, Fataar kept all of the syncopated and reggae type rhythms perfectly as well as added perfect brushes to the softer songs (not an easy task to switch gears so drastically), Hutchison played the electric bass as well as an upright and Marinelli was the perfect complement to Bonnie Raitt's slide playing.  I wished I could have had a better "concert experience" and I wish I had some photos to share with you, but, all things considered, I'm glad we went.  Next time we will be at this venue will be for Crosby, Stills and Nash and fortunately we have Level 100 seats.  I hope this band allows me to bring in my camera!

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