Bonnie Raitt remains at top of her game at NJPAC concert (REVIEW, PHOTOS, SETLIST, VIDEO)

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Bonnie Raitt with drummer Ricky Fataar and bassist James “Hutch” Hutchinson at NJPAC in Newark, June 5.

“Oh my gosh, what would we do without soul music!” said Bonnie Raitt, before singing her own soulful “Nick of Time” at her June 5 concert at Prudential Hall at NJPAC in Newark.

Testifying to the power of music itself was a constant theme of her between-song commentary during this show. After performing John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery,” for instance, she remembered how Phoebe Snow used to come to her New Jersey shows and how Snow would sit in with the band and “tear the roof off of that sucker right there. We’d do a Sam & Dave song, ‘I Thank You,’ and it was just … I fell over, you know.”

And about Prine himself, she said that when he died in 2020, it “was like losing a limb, for me.”


Bonnie Raitt, at NJPAC.

Raitt — who remains, at 74, a powerful vocalist and searing guitar player — said that just as her fans keep coming out to her shows, year after year, she keeps going to shows by people like Jackson Browne, Bruce Hornsby and Bruce Springsteen. “In these difficult times, this is what keeps us going,” she said. “It’s all I can do to get out of bed, a lot of days.”

The show was part of her Just Like That … Tour, which began back in March 2022 and will continue until at least November of this year. She included five songs from her 2022 Just Like That … album in her setlist and, as always, offered a tasteful mix of blues, roots and world music, with group of casually virtuosic musicians (guitarist Duke Levine, keyboardist Glenn Patscha, drummer Ricky Fataar and bassist James “Hutch” Hutchinson) behind her.

“This third year of touring behind this record, I’m pulling out some things that I’ve always wanted to work on,” she said before performing her second encore, Michael McDonald’s “Matters of the Heart,” which she released on her 1995 live album Road Tested but rarely has performed in concert since then.

She sang plenty of songs from her late-’80s/early-’90s commercial heyday (including “Something to Talk About,” “Love Letter” and the wrenchingly sad “I Can’t Make You Love Me”) but, in other parts of the show, roamed all over her catalog, with material ranging from “Never Make Your Move Too Soon” (which she performed with Ruth Brown and Charles Brown on Road Tested) to Bob Dylan’s “Million Miles” (recorded with a deep blues feeling on her 2012 album Slipstream). After “Million Miles,” she repeated a line from it, “Maybe in the next life I’ll be able to hear myself think,” as if to say, “What a great line!”

She dedicated “Livin’ for the Ones (Who Didn’t Make It)” to Prine, Snow, Jimmy Buffett, David Lindley, David Crosby, Toots Hibbert “and all the ones we lost too soon.” She paid tribute to the late Hibbert, of Toots & the Maytals fame (he’s “one of the greatest artists of any genre of music,” she said), before singing his “Love So Strong,” and the late Oliver Mtukudzi (“he’s just the greatest,” she said) before his “Hear Me Lord,” with Levine doing a great job of reproducing Andy Abad’s nimble lead guitar playing from Raitt’s recorded version.

After the “what would we do about soul music” comment quoted above, Raitt specifically mentioned Gamble & Huff, Thom Bell, The Stylistics and Al Green. And she lavished praise upon singer-songwriter Paul Brady before ending the pre-encore portion of the show with his “Steal Your Heart Away.’


Bonnie Raitt and band, at NJPAC.

Introducing the Just Like That … title track, which is about a woman who meets the person who received her deceased son’s heart in an organ-donation operation, Raitt said she was inspired to write it by Prine’s story-songs — “how he managed to get inside so many characters’ deepest soul in the fewest amount of words,” she said. “Just bring ’em to life, illuminate his own heart.”

She also said about Prine, “There will never be anyone like him. We’ll just keep him alive, playing his music.”

Since so many other artists who are older than her remain capable of being brilliant concert acts, she figures that she still has many years to keep doing that, herself.

“When I look at my elders, like Mick (Jagger) and Keith (Richards), and Bob (Dylan), and Willie (Nelson) … Mavis Staples, 85 years old … I feel like a youngster,” she said.

Opening the show was British singer-songwriter James Hunter and his sextet The James Hunter 6, which includes a two-piece horn section. Their set peaked with a hard-driving version of the Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown instrumental, “Okie Dokie Stomp.”

Here is Raitt’s setlist:

“I Sho Do”
“God Was in the Water”
“Made Up Mind”
“Love So Strong”
“Blame It on Me”
“Hear Me Lord”
“Million Miles”
“Just Like That”
“Something to Talk About”
“Love Letter”
“Nick of Time”
“Angel From Montgomery”
“Livin’ for the Ones”
“Steal Your Heart Away”

“I Can’t Make You Love Me”
“Matters of the Heart”
“Never Make Your Move Too Soon”



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