Ticket Stub: Bonnie Raitt in Massachusetts, August ’73

She’s become sort of a rock artist emeritus for the chablis-sipping set, but once upon a time, Bonnie Raitt’s music was raw and direct: her first three albums featured guest appearances by Junior Wells, Paul Butterfield, members of Little Feat, and a number of other blues/roots rock stars, and as a performer, she seemed to encapsulate the best of both worlds — a dazzling talent on the slide guitar, with bourbon-edged vocal howl of a more refined Janis. Even setting aside the fact that she was a woman in a predominantly male field, she presented an exciting blend of uncommon gifts.

Things went off the rails for her pretty badly during the late ’70s and early ’80s, but you won’t hear a hint of her future troubles (or her later rebirth as a Bryan Adams-dueting adult contemporary act) in this marvelously rough 1973 set, which finds Raitt beginning her promotional tour for the Takin’ My Time album in front of a raucous crowd at the Music Inn in Lenox, MA. You can tell Bonnie and the band are just finding their feet with the new material, but it doesn’t matter; they’re having such a great time, and so is the audience, that things like notes and chords are secondary.

The fidelity is pretty dodgy, but given the show’s vintage, it’s about what you’d expect — it sounds like you’re listening to it on an AM radio, and when Raitt audibly strains for (and misses) the high notes, it only adds to the charm. Odd as it may sound, this is the kind of stuff I look for from an artist of Raitt’s caliber. I want to feel it. If I want to hear her being technically perfect, I can always just listen to Longing in Their Hearts.

And just for the record, I’m totally not going to listen to Longing in Their Hearts.

Listen to the rest of this set — or drop an unbelievably affordable four bucks to own it all on mp3 (a whopping $6 for FLAC files) — at Wolfgang’s Vault.

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  • Matt

    Bonnie to me is that proverbial fine wine that only gets better with age. I came into Bonnie’s music via Nick of Time, etc, but the more that I’ve dug into her Warner Brothers output of the ’70s and ’80s, the more I love everything that Bonnie is about as an artist. Her Road Tested double live album is a constant must for me to have on hand. It shows that she can still rock with the best of them and the emotion that she puts forth in a song like her version of Jackson’s “My Opening Farewell” is hard to match. Like Joe Cocker, she’s taken a lot of songs from other artists and made them her own.